Trust, Shotcalling, and Healthy Coaching

      As League of Legends and its infrastructure at the professional level continue to evolve, it has become critically important for teams to build and promote trust within their player and coaching staff. As a coach or player in a leadership role, it is important that your players and teammates trust that you will make the right decision as well as react appropriately after mistakes. When a team feels confident that the instructions you are providing them with are instructions geared toward improvement and success, a healthy team environment is made possible. Likewise, when a coach feels that their players put in the effort towards improvement, they are able to instill their confidence in the players’ ability to achieve success.

      Within the past year, many organizations have started utilizing more than one player for a position. Origen use both Xpeke and PowerOfEvil as mid laners, Apex Gaming use Shrimp and Eve in the jungle, and Cloud 9 brought in Bunny as support alongside Hai. These multiple personnel dynamics can be very healthy for competition within a team while keeping players motivated to stay at the top of their game. However, the ups and downs of individual performance should be handled in a constructive manner.

      It’s inevitable. Eventually one of your players will hit a slump. This is where the coach has a chance to gain mutual trust with players on an individual and team basis. It is a choice every coach will eventually have to make. “He’s tilting out there, I have to pull him. He’s not helping the team like this.” That may have been the right call to make, but what happens after you pull someone out is far more critical to the future of your team and that player’s mindset than the act of taking them out of the next match. We see it in basketball all the time. A guard turns the ball over a few times or is having a rough night shooting. The coach doesn’t substitute him out and ignore him while he sits at the end of the bench. A good coach will sit the player next to him and tell him something to the effect of, “Take a step back and relax. Rough patches happen but we still need you. Collect yourself and get ready to help us later on.” Pulling a player out of the lineup and not handling it effectively holds a dangerous psychological message: The coach has lost confidence in the player’s ability to perform. If you were to allow a player to develop that mindset, you would be sending them back onto Summoner’s Rift with the fear of failure. Your support, who has executed a flash-hook engage with Thresh hundreds of times, might not even attempt it now for the fear of missing the hook or making a perceived “bad play.”

      However, much like any other sport, a coach’s ability to induce success is limited. When a match starts and it becomes five players sitting beside each other on stage it is their job to put everything they have practiced into place. Sure, you can remember words of wisdom your coach has given, but situational awareness and adaptation are what separates the LCS from the kids playing an amateur tournament at the mall. A voice among the chaos of a team fight or an invade can turn the tides of a match heavily in your favor if that voice is decisive, and if every team member is willing to follow, whether they feel it is the best decision or not. We call that voice shot calling.

      Cloud 9’s Hai Lam is regarded as North America’s best shot caller, and is considered one of the greatest in-game leaders in League of Legends history. Hai has played mid, jungle, and support for Cloud 9 since 2013 when he joined and qualified for the LCS. His former teammate and current coach for Cloud 9, Lemonnation described Hai’s shot calling in an interview during the 2015 summer split:

Provided by G|League’s YouTube Channel

      Here is an example of that loud, decisive shot calling from Hai as Alistar in one of Cloud 9’s games vs CLG in the 2016 spring split:

Provided by XynergyLoL’s Youtube Channel

      With Hai on the Rift for Cloud 9 they know their identity and are always a tough team to play against. His teammates trust the calls he makes, and likewise, he trusts his teammates to listen to his strategy, which makes C9 a cohesive unit.

      For Cloud 9, a single shot caller works, but every team is different, and there are many ways to handle shot calling and devising a plan during a game. Origen of the European LCS, semi-finalists in the 2015 World Championships, use Mithy (Support) and Amazing (Jungle) to co-create game plans based off of information provided by everyone on the team. Origen as a whole is confident in each player’s game knowledge and ability to properly play their role and specific champion. This results in their team fighting being a lot less talkative while their instincts take over. They understand their team compositions and go into each game with a plan. This means that if Mithy or Amazing make the call to fight, their primary engage could flash in at any moment, and it is up to each individual player to react accordingly.

      While having trust and cohesiveness on Summoner’s Rift is an invaluable quality, being able to connect with your teammates outside of the game is just as vital to a team’s success. One way that League of Legends differs from many other professional sports is that the players live in a gaming house together. After a hard fought win you can go home and celebrate, joke around, or unwind with your teammates. This also means that after a frustrating loss you go home with your teammates and witness how each player handles the lows of defeat. Counter Logic Gaming is showing how important it is to have the same trust with your teammates in everyday life that you have in-game.

      After the conclusion of the 2015 NA LCS Summer Split, and before IEM San Jose, Counter Logic Gaming made some drastic changes to their team. With the departure of Pobelter and Doublelift, Huhi and Stixxay joined the starting lineup as Mid and ADC respectively. Head coach Chris Ehrenreich was also released. Tony “Zikz” Gray was promoted as the new head coach, and since then he has recruited a player development coach as well as four analysts. Team captain and LCS veteran Aphromoo described these changes as getting rid of negativity that would prevent them from staying on track. He also noted that they are helping foster their young talent in Huhi and Stixxay by making sure they are always having fun and enjoying playing the game, with the rest naturally falling into place. CLG has publicly documented their team bonding on their social media accounts, where you can frequently see pictures of the League of Legends team eating meals together, laughing with each other, playing other video games, and trust building exercises:

clg doing clg things

Provided by CLG’s Instagram Account

      It is probably no coincidence that CLG became the North American LCS Champions for the 2016 Spring Split. During the finals against Team SoloMid, Stixxay was struggling due to having his champion pool banned and first picked. Rather than focusing their efforts elsewhere on the map, CLG made the decision in game five to put Stixxay on Tristana, one of his best pocket picks, and put Huhi on Lulu to rally around him. In the final team fight Stixxay gets multiple ability resets on Rocket Jump to triple kill TSM and give CLG their second consecutive championship. The trust that CLG put in their rookie ADC in the Grand Finals is an attestment to the positive environment in which they operate.

Provided by EpicSkillShot’s Youtube Channel

      Western League of Legends seems to be learning that success is achieved as a unit rather than five individual players. Instead of continuing to look for the most mechanically gifted players around the world, organizations are starting to look within themselves for the answers as to why North America and Europe falter on the international stage. There are no shortcuts to being the best, and trust is a quality that breeds success when it is reciprocated and comes full circle.

Highlights created with Vibby

Featured Image provided by Riot Games’ Flickr Account

Written by JustZachWV

Edited by Williaf

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