Once crowned Support King, now Head Coach of Fnatic, Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez opens up about his transition from player to coach.
Starting in the League of Legends Esports Challenger scene over seven years ago, Mithy has built his way up to be considered one of the most successful LoL players in the European region. Named “Best in the West” with his iconic bot lane duo, he now impacts players careers sharing his experiences through the coaching role.
Let’s start things off with you leaving Origen to coach in Fnatic. How did this opportunity come to you?
Origen wanted to take a bet on Destiny, since they had spent a lot with two other players, they decided to gamble with the support role. I was left in a situation where there were other supports, like Kaiser and Norsekeren (now Tore), who were higher priority for other teams than I was. I was not in a position to choose a team that was the most competitive, but rather, just play for the sake of playing on any other team. If that was the case, I would have still tried to compete and give it my best, but it just did not feel the same. I was not in a good place mentally.
Right, I can imagine it was not the easiest of times. Not to come off as blunt, but what was it like for you to realize that time has brought your career to this inevitable point?
It’s hard to accept that this is the reality. As rough as it is, I knew I had to take a break. Regardless of what would happen in the future, I did not feel like I could continue to play and take the role of teaching other players in the team, and go through all that cycle again in a new organization. Towards the end I was always frustrated and stressed out, so this was the right time to take a rest.
This new role allows me to see things in a different perspective. Now I get to see how other players play, think and behave. It gives me an outside insight on a lot of things that would happen in a team back when I was a player, like how players react to different situations, their arguments and discussions that sometimes get really serious for them. From my point of view, I sometimes have to tell them “guys, you are being really stupid right now”. I try to be real with them and I think they get the point.
"I am trying to help the players become their best version instead of just telling them what to do."
With the advance of your career, did you know you were steering towards a future of coaching?
I knew I was going to transition into coaching, even though I have a very different idea of what coaching should be. In traditional sports, like American football or basketball, coaching is very hands on. Kids are constantly told by the coaches how they should be playing the game. It doesn’t feel like a two-way street. For players that are starting, that’s a good method.
In my approach, I prefer a more neutral way of coaching, almost conversational, bringing up talks about what is working well and what isn’t. I am trying to help the players become their best version instead of just telling them what to do.
When you brought up basketball coaching, in my head, I immediately thought of your previous coach at Origen, Guilhoto.
Guilhoto was a great coach. We once spoke about how as a coach, your effort goes towards trying to help players grow, regardless of their acceptance for you.
In the first week of the split, I had a conversation with him about your growth as a player, and now coach, he mentioned that it was a little intimidating, because you had so much potential. Has he taught you anything when it comes to coaching?
When you work with someone for a year, you learn a lot from them. Guilhoto was very close to the players. He knew how to speak to them and get his point across, never shy to voice his opinion. There are also a lot of mistakes coaches make, that as a player, you can’t help but think what you would do in their position and how differently you would approach a situation. I take all that as part of how my learning experience was.
I have heard that you have a great relationship with the team, specifically with Rekkles.
Our relationship outside of the whole LEC thing is very similar to when it comes to the game. We talk and try to stay close, and for every player I try to listen, talking about what is going on, before things get out of control. *laughs*
Out of control?! *laughs* That reminds me of a chat I had with Bwipo at All-Star last December. He mentioned that Fnatic has very opinionated players. How have you approached that?
I have to sit down and listen to every single opinion. It’s a little bit exhausting but I don’t have to play anymore. I make them say what they have to say in front of everyone, so we just argue a lot until we come to an agreement… *laughs*
Or until you kill each other!
So, was this the right decision for you, then? Are you happy?
I think I have always been very lucky about how my life turned out to be, so I don’t really complain. Sure, I can say I am happy, but that is a very mixed state of mind. I can be happy one day and I can be sad the other day.
But career-wise, happy?
Career-wise, I am happy.