The demand for Korean League of Legends coaches is high, as more Korean coaches are seen in China and North America. As the former support and strategic coach for Team SoloMid who then turned to the coach of League Championship Korea’s Longzhu Gaming, Ham “Lustboy” Jang-Sik was able to share his special insight regarding this phenomena in an interview with Daily eSports’ Lee Yun-Ji.
“The biggest reason is that the Korean coaches in foreign teams are very capable,” he told Daily eSports. “Above all, Korea has the image of the strongest region. So the players tend to be easier to coach because they think that ‘Koreans are good at LoL.’ I think that’s the core of the coaches’ success.”
One of the problems of Korean coaches is always communication over the language barrier in foreign teams. Lustboy said those concerns are somewhat exaggerated, and even then the reward outweighs the risk.
“There are certainly some problems, but the vocabulary used in the game is quite similar,” he said. “It boils down to game terms and ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ It’s more complex when you have to report to the higher ups or give longform interviews, but once you spend some time with the team, it gets better. Even with those risks, the reason why foreign teams seek out Korean coaches is because of leadership. Korean coaches tend to have this ‘passive’ of having players follow the well. I think I May is a good example. When a new team lacks the focus or solidarity, they prefer Korean coaching.”
Another thing that makes Korean coaches effective comes with the long history of esports in Korea. According to Lustboy, they have the unique ability to keep the team in shape.
“Korean coaches have a trait when it comes to gaming in general,” he said. “It’s something that has been traditionally passed down, and that’s keeping players on their toes. I feel that foreign coaches lack that ability to keep the team well-wound. When it comes to in-game knowledge, Korean coaches have high placements in the ranking system, and the information that comes with playing that much. From 2012 to 2014, Korean teams had much more practice compared to other regions. That amount of information during those four years become strong points for coaches.”
As the support player for TSM many fans had high expectations throughout Lustboy’s career as Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-Sup also joined as the coach to create that ‘Korean synergy.’ But it didn’t necessarily work out.
“Other than being able to get used to things quickly, there haven’t been any synergy effects,” he said. “I’m sure it’s different from team to team. In TSM’s case they forbid players of the use of their native language. Some other teams, the players were allowed to speak anything they wanted to. In a team that creates an atmosphere like that, players from different regions can talk to each other comfortably and create synergy.”
Lustboy also talked about his transition from player to coach during his time with TSM. The problem wasn’t the mechanical skill of the players, just basic knowledge.
“When I was added as a player, the situation wasn’t good,” he said. “The players lacked in gaming knowledge a lot. Their skills were fine, but without the right knowledge, the games wouldn’t work out. In my case, I’ve spent a lot of my time getting as much knowledge as possible during my time in CJ Entus Blaze. With that know how I started to teach them after a 2~3 week adjustment period. From then on, the players listened to me and I had an easy time coaching them.”
Daily eSports asked more in detail about Lustboy’s comments on what foreign players lacked, and he clarified in what ways Korean teams were still ahead four years running.
“Simply put, it’s game management types and patterns,” he said. “For example, national exams have types of questions. Since the same types come into play, you only need to practice a little bit to get good dealing with it. This is applicable to games. Usually pro gamers aren’t really good at thinking (like that). Once they accumulate various types of play, they become veterans. In that sense, Korea is still very ahead. Solo queue and scrims are crucial in understanding those ‘types.’ This is my opinion, but until 2014, Korean teams ended scrims quickly. They would play until a certain time and when the game was going in a certain direction, they would stop. But NA teams would play it out. With scrims set up like that, Korean teams are able to encounter more types of play in the same timeframe, especially over a four year period. Since NA and EU have a smaller number of scrims, this would have been difficult.”
With many Korean coaches showing success in various regions leading up to the League of Legends World Championship — Cloud9, I May, and EDG in particular — Lustboy broke down each team with a Korean coach and how each one was effective in his own way.
“In I May’s case, they were EDward Gaming’s secondary team, and I’ve heard that there were some troubles within the team. LoL is a team game, so teamwork is a necessity. When problems exist, there cannot be teamwork. In that troubling time, I May needed a coach that had the charisma that could bring them together, and coach Son Dae-Young did that. I May’s play also improved, but being able to bring 5 people together under such circumstances should be applauded.
“All of Cloud9’s players are very skilled. They also have a player that is more skilled than those in TeamSoloMid, who’re called the best in NA. But the players are also very prideful. I think I can say this because I’m close with (Bok “Reapered” Han-Gyu.) Reapeared is also quite proud. So he’s very well versed in how to handle players like him. I think C9 has found the right person for the job.
“Coach (Jeong “Rapidstar” Min-Seong) has a very fun and soft personality. I believe that he played a part in EDG’s growth as a team. (Rapidstar) also spends a lot of time thinking. He would be deep in thought on his own and if something useful comes of it, he tells people around him. The players of EDG tend to prioritize practice and play over thinking like that, so having someone like Rapidstar who relays his thoughts to the team is a good thing. I also think that with EDG’s play style that revolves around Kim “Deft” Hyeok-Gyu, I think Rapidstar created a place where he can focus on what Deft needs to do.”
With the possibility of more organizations looking into hiring coaching staff from Korea, Lustboy summed up the effects to largely two categories.
“There are largely two type of effects that result in Korean coaching,” he said. “The first is changing the entire color of the team, and the second is fitting players with strong personalities into the rest of the team. A lot of foreign teams seek out Korean coaches that can change the team’s style. Some coaches that have been active in Korea for a long time are able to revive some players as well.”
Photos courtesy of Riot Games