After breaking the losing streak and securing their first win of the season, CLG's League of Legends Division Coach, Weldon "Weldon" Green, spoke with Inven Global about the team's narratives, reality, and consequential mindset. The players feel stress, and the fans feel worried, but Weldon is reassuring, noting the growth and mindset we can't see behind the scenes.
With the delay of Lee "Crown" Min-ho's visa, the team was set back a few weeks in their practice, but after steady improvements, they had a much more solid looking weekend, and should continue to improve as the weeks press on.
It's been a rough, slow start for CLG, and pre-season rankings were averaging CLG around 4th or so based on the paper roster. I know there were a lot of issues with visas, but otherwise, what has been the reason for the slower start?
Well, I think that it's not [a slow start]. We just have to go back to the definition of slow start, right? You're talking relative in terms of wins to other teams, but not in terms of our progress as a team. I think we started at point 0, or point A, or point whatever the origin is, and we've been steadily improving every single day since then. And taking too much data ourselves on what our mindset should be around this roster from the natural course of events is really bad. There are two really different perspectives.
One is the fan perspective and they're looking at wins and losses and talking about starts and momentum and narrative and all that stuff, but that's not really real, in terms of progress of a team. I think that we had some really great weeks in Korea where we were growing consistently. I think we had one down week right before LCS, the Wednesday 10 days before LCS up until LCS.
I think we had a static training, where we weren't getting better or worse and we didn't have a mid laner. And then I think Crown's condition the week after that because of the travel and everything, and re-syncing with the team after the 10 days off was like back at the end of our bootcamp in Korea. And then we've been progressing since then.
So the narrative of the slow start - I mean sure maybe we could've won those games if we had a better draft or we still could've lost them - but it's not really that important. Obviously the win-loss record is very important for placements in playoffs, but as far as the relative strength of our team at the end of the season, I don't think it's any different that what I perceived before.
That's good to hear. Obviously the narrative is just that - it's a narrative. So what is the reality in the players' minds right now?
The challenge in an environment like this is to go on stage and still be confident, and not be afraid and stressed out. And obviously after four games, they're starting to feel that. They're starting to doubt themselves, play a little tighter and not as loose as they should. And that's to be expected when you have expectations of winning and losing placed on you.
So that's really what each player is fighting against as well as they can. I think you saw that in the last game with Crown and his sub-par fingers in the 1v1 in top with Daniele "Jiizuke" di Mauro. You know, he feels a lot of pressure and he doesn't want to mess up because we already had four games where we messed up.
And when you have someone who is in the zone and really dialed in, they perform up to their maximum potential, and I think Crown's maximum potential is astoundingly high - much higher than we saw in that 1v1. So that's what you see when we have those pressure nerves. And he's also luckily someone who is very veteran in getting over that. So he is going through this process of confidence and trusting his teammates, talking about his failures and his fears. And as the team camaraderie builds, those things will disappear.
What is your mindset right now? You have a long history of working through these moments specifically. Is that still what you're focusing on? You had a change in position/title this off-season, so what is your focus now.
Actually nothing has changed, I'm literally doing the exact same thing. There was just a name change so we could accommodate Riot's structure. Org's have their own internal structure, and then Riot has their structure they require for the orgs, and they don't always mesh. So sometimes org's have to come up with weird names for stuff to get around that. So there's no story there, it's just procedural, just paperwork.
But at some point, I think orgs will aspire to have that kind of coaching infrastructure that they have with management. They'll have multiple teams with multiple coaches and then someone who is an expert coach trainer to teach them pedagogy. And if my role shifts into that position, I'll let you know.
So what is your main focus then now that there is this 0-4? Are you hopping back into your old shoes of fixing TSM time and time again? Or are you just sticking to the original plan?
No I'm not hopping in those. The only thing the 0-4 changes is... The 0-4 is nice because it focuses the players. So it makes them do everything that we're already trying to do better and harder because they have more zest in wanting to turn it around. So we're basically doing the exact same thing and we have a lot more focus and commitment in training. And people are much more willing to have conflict and duke it out over the bad habits that others have.
So I think it, generally speaking, leads to more rapid improvement of you have the type of environment that doesn't shatter apart. So we are trying to keep consistent with all the things we should be consistent with to keep everybody healthy in their relationships with their teammates.
CLG has had Summer for a few years now, who - from my knowledge - has performed many of the same functions as you in your own career, namely esports psychology and cognition. With you both on the team, do you overlap in your roles, or how do you work together?
I think it's mostly that she's able to take a lot of duties off of me that I'd otherwise have to do so that I can focus more on coaching League of Legends specifically. She runs the Division of Player Development, which means she works with six or seven teams and a bunch of individual athletes that all have different interventions, like yoga, physical therapy, physical maintenance. Workshops for handling finances, sleep and sleep training, going to their homes and making sure they are set up well... Everything involved with the development of a high performer falls into her department, and she organizes and choreographs all of that.
And then on top of that, she is able to jump in with the Academy team and do 1 on 1's for two weeks, and she came to the Korea bootcamp and ran some team building stuff so that I was able to focus on working with Ssong and running the bootcamp and talking to different players or having a different perspective.
So yeah, I think that what I do as the head coach, or what I do as the division coach gives me a very full plate, and because she has background in player development and sports psychology, she's able to take all the infrastructural requirements of that position and she runs the whole show. And that's really nice, so I can just focus on the league team.
And you play IMT this Monday, so I guess you're hoping for a 2-0 and turning around that narrative, even if it's just for reduced stress on the players.
We're hoping for a 2-0 because we get to eat at a much nicer restaurant if we 2-0 this weekend. If we don't get the 2-0, we eat at a less nice restaurant. But yeah, then we will go into next week and we'll be working on our area's of improvement. One is essentially controlling the map through mid lane. Every team is working on controlling the map through mid with their jungler and support.
Then we're working on how it is that we fight, how we engage fights. It's a very fighty meta, everything is determined by getting set up around the objective and fighting it out, right? And then eventually, once our choreography, communication, and shotcalling are all much more smooth and everyone has clearly defined roles in that, we'll get back into side wave control and side wave management with split pushers and high-prio side laners.
But I don't think that's something the team is willing to dabble in that again yet until we have the basics down. Which that is of course something that we coaches knew going in, but we don't want to just tell the players they're crap at that, we want to trust them and give them a chance. And the players wanted to take that burden on themselves, and we believed in them and they believe in themselves - they still do - just not this week.
Any last words you have for fans hoping to see a strong turnaround?
I think EG is going to be one of the stronger teams this season, so this is a really nice win to pull off. It means that we have the head to head with them and at least a tie in the head to head, but hopefully we can 2-0 them because they're a pretty essential team for us to beat for playoff contention now that we're 0-4, we can only lose about four more games. So every single win is so important right now.