Following the hiatus of most major esports leagues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scene slowly returns to normal with a solution exclusive to electronic sports: online matches. Players are confined to their gaming houses for their own safety, which creates the perfect scenario for practice. Excel Esports Performance Coach Fabian Broich talks about what has changed in the players’ lives since the coronavirus.
The first step was to ban fan meets and post-game high fives. What were the first measures you took to protect your players then?
We know how important the health of our players is, and as soon as we heard about the coronavirus when it had just started spreading we kept the players' health on focus. In an interview you did with me earlier this split, I had said that we see our players as human beings, not products, and we want them to grow outside the game as well. It was really important for us to establish a healthy lifestyle.
As the virus threat grew, we made sure to take measures to protect the players. We have external workers that come to our gaming house every day, like our cook, our masseuse and our physiotherapist. If any of them present any symptoms, they are not allowed in. There is a lot of communication, and a lot of disinfectant soaps to prioritize our hygiene. Even before the coronavirus our hygiene was a priority, since we spend most of the day inside.
Other than hygiene, have you worked on the players’ immunologic system, introducing anything new to their diets?
We have included a lot more superfoods the players’ diets, even in their smoothies. Since they spend a lot of time inside in the Fall and Winter season, we supplement their vitamin D. When the weather is nicer, we go outside in the yard for some fresh air. Very similarly to sports, we bring our equipment inside if we cannot go to the gym, in this case, it’s too much of a risk, so we brought yoga mats in.
Working out is such an important part of the players’ preparation. How have you worked around not having a gym? Are they doing just yoga for now?
It is definitely a bit different now because normally, we do cardio and regular workouts at the gym. Here we don’t have stationary bikes or treadmills, so we use this time locked in to do yoga and in-house sports. We do a lot of stretches for the back, wrist and the neck since they sit around a lot. The use of weights and own-body exercise helps them see where the tension in their bodies comes from.
We are creating a habitat where these players will learn how to start the day with proper stretching. Relaxation techniques with yoga combined with breathing exercises is how we are adapting to the changes.
'The team was about to get picked up by our shuttle and head to the studio when we saw the announcement on twitter. It must have been a really sudden decision."
How did the players first react to the LEC being on hiatus? Was it as surprising to them as it was to us?
The team was about to get picked up by our shuttle and head to the studio when we saw the announcement on twitter. It must have been a really sudden decision. It is an external factor, which we could not do much about. The team made the decision to have Saturday off, as it was already Friday evening, and we discussed staying inside, not going out, ordering in food and not going out to eat it, not even touching money.
This is actually a good case scenario where we use the benefit of the situation to stay safe indoors, even though it was obviously a bit of a shock to us. I have been a professional sports psych for a long time, and YoungBuck has coached for such a long time, both of us had never seen anything like this happen. It is important for us, as coaching staff, to keep calm and keep a strong structure to make the right reactionary moves, without too much emotion involved. The players were insecure about what was going on, since we are spending most of our time in a gaming house, and they spend a big part of their lives indoors, we have the healthiest lifestyle when it comes to preventing coronavirus.
How did the players react to the league moving to an online format?
Of course the players were excited to continue, they wanted the LEC to resume. Right now, we are all in Germany, and the players are far away from their homes. We update the players with everything we know regarding the situation, what has changed due to the pandemic, which countries are having border restrictions, and reaching out to the families. We communicate with the parents to make sure they are not too concerned and see that we are taking care of their sons.
I’d love to hear your opinion on the current situation, given you come from a background of sports where every major league is canceled, while esports is able to take the hit and resume the leagues online.
Esports will have a lot more focus on the upcoming weeks, or months. Like you mentioned, traditional sports cannot compete with esports because of the risk of spreading the virus person-to-person, while our leagues are connected to the internet and have not been affected so much. Events and tournaments certainly can’t happen, but since we are set up in a gaming house, for us it is just a change of where we play.
This will be a good way to put esports on the radar. We always hear people not knowing what esports is, or haven’t gotten used to it, so now is the time. As long as we are all healthy, we can keep the competition going.