Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Cloud9’s Jeong “Impact” Eon-young during the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS). They talked (in Korean and translated to English) about taking a break between spring and summer, his relationship with Jeon “Ray” Ji-won and how Impact thinks a team should be built.
Andrew Kim: I heard you took a long vacation this year. What were you up to before coming back to Cloud9?
JEY: I went on trips, had good food, had fun with friends and family. Around mid May, I thought that it would be time for me to play a lot of solo-queue since that’s when the team started. I came back to the US and practiced some more. Ray played for the first week since I didn’t scrim with the team, and I came on stage after about three scrim games with the team. It is slightly disappointing because I couldn’t show a very good performance. I kept thinking that I was doing a lot worse compared to scrims, like I would be doing fine early on and then suddenly something would go wrong.
AK: As a professional, preventing burnout is very important, especially when you’ve played as long as you have. Were you completely comfortable about taking that long vacation?
JEY: I was kind of nervous, thinking that my skill could dip down. I think it’s natural that I feel that way. I entered the games thinking that rather than worrying about it, I should just do my best after I come back to the US, and I played a bunch.
AK: There’s a lot of interest between you and Ray, about the kind of relationship you guys have. Normally people look at it as a master-apprentice dynamic or some kind of brotherly companionship. How would you describe it?
JEY: I think the brothers analogy is the best way to put it. We share things about the game with each other, and we’re trying to aim for a cooperative relationship rather than a competitive one. I guess I would have more knowledge than Ray, but I don’t think the master-apprentice image is right. My experience simply comes from being older and thus having a long career, so I think brothers would be the best way to look at it.
AK: As a player who’s been working to be consistent across a multi-year career, how are you making sure your mentality doesn’t waver?
JEY: I think having a goal is most important. You need will in order to focus on what you’re doing. My goal was to do well at an international stage, not just in the US, so I can maintain my form and do well as worlds. Last year, my form was good, but I couldn’t do well in the quarterfinals of worlds even though I wanted to continually show good performances. I think I use that as a center to maintain my focus. If I were to think that I should just do as I usually do just because I’m being paid to play, there will always be someone else who works harder than me. Then I’d start to lose and lose, go on tilt, and whatnot. I don’t want to be that person. I think that there will be some people who get their mentality impacted and just do scrims without any solo queue practice, but I didn’t want to just play without the will to get better. I think that’s how I’ve been keeping myself centered. KkOma (Kim Jung-gyun) was also a large help to me.
AK: In what way?
JEY: When I went to America, he told me this: “Don’t think too much about what other people are doing and just focus on yourself. You can look around after you’re doing well yourself. If you do well, then the people around you can do well.” He made sure that I focused on myself more than anything. I used to be a lot more active in trying to tell my teammates something and getting involved, but I was able to switch to mostly focus on me, which helped a lot.
AK: The topic of “mistakes” is dominating the professional scene. What does it mean to not make mistakes or to reduce mistakes?
JEY: I think that just means you’re good. My goal initially was to not make mistakes, to play at least one person’s worth. Of course, team-wide mistakes could happen. There is no such thing as a perfect team. Everyone makes mistakes, but the strong teams make less of them. It’s very important for sure. It’s not about “why can’t you play well,” since even players that are praised will inevitably make mistakes. I don’t think there’s a player that’s perfect all the time. I think it’s much more effective for a coach to focus on reducing mistakes and encouraging the players, rather than pointing out who did well and who didn’t. Not doing mistakes is the holy grail, but having the goal to reduce said mistakes is very important as well.
AK: As you have been a part of your team for some time, I’m sure you have opinions on what a team should look like. What is the most important thing to a team?
JEY: I think it’s the eagerness to play. You need to be eager to improve together and to set goals together. When it comes to sports, I think hard work and eagerness are the most important. Hard work is certainly important but you need eagerness to continue to do more and find the energy to do more.
AK: When you mean eagerness, is that something one can seek out or is it something that one is born with?
JEY: I think you can definitely find it in yourself. You could lack eagerness in general, but as a professional gamer, you can’t not have it. A lot of people in NA say that “Korea is going to win worlds anyway” quite often, but it’s not like all the players just give up at worlds. NA can go to the semifinals, it can go to the finals with the hard work. I think it’ll be good for players to think not only about how to play their own role, but also to think how to win as a whole.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/Slingshot illustration