T1, is an organization with a rich history and an incredible legacy. One of the things that T1 is renowned for is their exceptional talent for nurturing rookie talent, as they’ve promoted Kim “Canna” Chang-dong, Choi “Ellim” El-lim, Lee “Clozer” Ju-hyeon, and Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong to the main roster to debut in the LCK. Additionally, Choi “Zeus” Woo-je, and Moon “Oner” Hyeon-joon will be making their debut in the LCK in 2021, while Yoo “Crescent” Hwan-joong, the former support player for T1's Challenger team, will be debuting as the starting support for HyFresh Blade.
There are two main reasons why T1 was able to have much success with rookie talent. First, T1 utilizes their secondary roster very actively. In the LCK, T1, Gen.G and DRX are the forerunners of proactively promoting their respective Challengers rosters, with T1 having the most amount of great rookie talent. The second reason comes from T1’s brand power. Who wouldn’t want to join an organization with such a rich history and countless championships?
With franchising just around the corner for the LCK's 2021 season, the challengers league will also be established. What this means is that many rookie players will be able to gain competitive experience through the newly formed Challengers league, and with it, there will be more potential opportunities to see new talent to shake up LCK. Inven met up with the coaching staff of T1 Challengers, head coach, Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong, and coach Park “Sayho” Se-ho to hear about their plans to lead their roster to success.
This is your first interview as T1 Challengers’s coaching staff. Can you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Bengi: My name is Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong, and I’m the newly appointed head coach for T1's Challengers team.
Sayho: My name is Park “Sayho” Se-ho, and I’m the coach for T1 Challengers. I’m 25 years old, and next year will mark the 3rd year with T1. Including my time as a coach in PUBG, I have about five years of coaching experience. Prior to my time at T1, I was with a PUBG team called “NightWolf”, and was with the LPL team OMG, when “Uzi” was with the team.
(To Bengi) I heard that T1 first came to you with the offer. What made you decide to rejoin the organization?
Bengi: After I finished my mandatory military service, I was at a crossroads for what I wanted to do in the future. I thought that this path would fit me well, since I feel that I’ve learned a lot from my head coach during my days as a player, and enable me well as I transition into the head coach position.
(To Sayho) What was your first impression of Bengi joining as head coach?
Sayho: I was ecstatic. I felt that there was too much on my hands for me to lead the Challengers team by myself, because even if I had coaching experience, I still felt like I was young and wanted to learn. That’s why I was so relieved when Bengi joined as head coach, and I wanted to awaken the giant within.
What do you mean by ‘awakening the giant within?’
Sayho: As a coach, I feel that I’m still incomplete. To compare myself to a champion in LoL, it’d be Amumu. While Amumu looks weak and small on the outside, it’s a very good champion in the current meta. People may think that I’m just another guy trying to make it in the scene, but I spent the last two years giving it my all to nurture rookie talent and have them called up to the main roster. I want to continue to grow and improve, so when Bengi joined, I was relieved.
(To Bengi) What part of being a head coach resonated with you?
Bengi: I have the experience as a pro, and more importantly, playing on the big stage as well. I feel that I have what it takes to teach the players the mindset of playing on stage, as it’s something that can only come from someone that actually has the experience.
(To Bengi) During your days as a pro, do you believe that you’ve fared well in high-stake matches?
Bengi: I was actually more comfortable playing in such high-stakes matches. Maybe I’m just suited for competition. There are players that underperform when it matters, so I hope to pass on my knowledge of performing well in matches.
(To Sayho) In recent years, T1 has produced many young prospects. From Canna, Effort, Clozer, and Gumayusi, they’ve all performed exceptionally well on the main roster. What is the main goal behind nurturing rookie talent?
Sayho: First, I look at whether or not a player has the guts to overcome failure. If they do have guts, they don’t give up. To players like that, you can give them a sword if they already have a shield, and vice-versa. Even if they sometimes make risky plays, I encourage them to continue making them, as it’s a method for the players to not make mistakes in actual matches.
(To Sayho) Who are some of the players that fit the aforementioned profile?
Sayho: Canna, Clozer, Zeus, Berserker, and Gumayusi all fit that profile quite well, as they play very aggressively. They play with the mindset of winning the 1 vs 2, even if it means dying.
(To Bengi) I also want to extend the same question to you. What is the most important trait that you see in a young prospect?
Bengi: Well, they have to have the mechanics. I can fill the other necessary pieces of the puzzle, but the players need to be mechanically gifted.
Is there a player that caught your eye?
Bengi: While I haven’t met this player in person, Oner, who recently got called up to the main roster, have impressed me. From the VODs of his gameplay that I watched, he had very impressive mechanics.
In terms of the game itself, what is your priority when helping rookie talent grow?
Bengi: I keep a close eye on how aggressive they play. The current meta is all about skirmishing, and I feel that Riot will continue to move in this direction. I feel that aggressive players will survive in this scene, and that’s the focal point behind nurturing rookie talent.
How does a player become aggressive in their gameplay?
Bengi: They need to not be afraid to fail. When a player makes a play, it’s important to praise them for their plays and help them find direction, rather than telling them, “Don’t make such plays because you can’t”.
Both of you emphasized on playing aggressive, but if a laner’s overaggressive and the team loses because of that one player, it’s detrimental to teamwork. It seems that there needs to be a middle point to all of it.
Bengi: That middle ground can only be found through practice. You can’t be aggressive all the time; the team needs to be smart and play according to their team composition. However, the general direction needs to be in that aggressive direction.
Sayho: While there isn’t a definite answer to everything, I’ve done it this way for two years. As Bengi said, the most important thing is to trust in the players, and that the coaching staff needs to be flexible in approaching the game. If you’re fixated on a certain approach, a player can never play aggressively.
Another important thing to note is that if results are the only thing that matters to a team, that team will tend to only play defensively. If so, the team will start tunnel vision into a certain pattern of defensive strategies that worked for them in the past. When I first talked with Bengi, a lot of his thoughts were in line with mine, so that’s why I’m so excited for next year.
With franchising rolling into the LCK next year, the Challengers league will also be established. As it’s an immense opportunity for the young players, what are your expectations for the team?
Bengi: Due to the lack of competitive matches, there was definitely a lack of motivation for these young players. Competitive experience is very important for players’ growth, and I believe that the newly formed Challengers league will be very helpful for our players.
Sayho: For the players that are ready, it’ll be an immense opportunity. Just like the golden ticket in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, it’s an opportunity for these players to show the world what they’ve got, and it’ll enable the players to reach new heights.
I believe that our competition lies beyond the other teams in the Challengers league. By this time next year, I hope to craft a team that can go toe to toe against the LCK teams that are at least in the middle of the pack. I’m confident that I can create that team. When many of the players I’ve worked with got called up to the main roster, people around me would say things like “Oh, you got lucky. The former coaches did their jobs well”. I agree with those claims, as I got very lucky with everything, especially the players I worked with.
While I do accept that I was lucky, I still intend to prove the things I need to prove. By November of 2021, I hope to get my players those golden tickets.
(To Bengi) Most of the head coaches that we spoke to over this year’s offseason emphasized the players’ mindset. What kind of mindset do players need to have?
Bengi: Being a pro player is all about the competition, so they need to fiend for that success. Top players are all thirsty for the win, and I’ll make sure to make our players very thirsty.
(To Bengi) When you were a player, were you just as hungry for success?
Bengi: Now that I think about it, I feel that I was quite ambitious. When I couldn’t produce the results I wanted, I remember staying up all night to practice. In that sense, I was very greedy.
(To Sayho) What kind of a mindset do you hope your players will have?
Sayho: I hope that they’ll have the “Chutzpah” mentality, just like how bold and aggressive Israeli were. I’ve read that the Israeli had that kind of mindset ever since they were young, so they continued to question, challenge, and even were audaciously self-assertive in their journey of growth. While all the players have their own unique personalities, I hope that they’ll have the “Chutzpah” mentality, because I believe it’ll lead them to success.
What kind of people do you want the players to view both of you as?
Bengi: I hope that they’ll consider me to be the comfortable older brother figure. There’s a certain distance in a player-coach relationship. I hope to build a relationship where they feel comfortable coming to me for deep talks.
Sayho: When going to war, both the players and the coaching staff head into the battlefield. For example, in TFT, champions have synergies, so if the players and the coaching staff aren’t comfortable with one another, the team synergy is non-existent. A team should be a brotherhood. It’s not easy to be charismatic, have leadership, and do a great job at what you’re doing. My goal next year is to be a coach that excel at all three.
(To Bengi) If you find the head coach role to fit you well, is there a possible future where you become the head coach for the main roster?
Bengi: It’ll all depend on whether or not I’m capable. However, right now, I want to do well at where I am right now, and prove that I can do my job very well. I don’t think it’s something that I should be contemplating right now.
(To Sayho) What kind of a path do you hope to walk in your future?
Sayho: I hope to win Worlds with the players I nurtured one day. Right now, I have very high hopes for the roster in the academy league. I’m working with very talented players for the same cause, and I’m very blessed to work with them. I believe that we’ll be the team with the best synergy, and by this time next year, I hope to grow into a coach that is sought out by every team.
T1 is a team with an incredible history and legacy, and consists of some of the best talent in the world. Do you feel the pressure of stepping up and performing, with the ultimate goal of becoming champions?
Bengi: Because of such, it would be wrong to say if there wasn’t any pressure. However, I’m confident that we can achieve our goals with the roster that we have.
Sayho: The amount of expectation and confidence overrides that same pressure. Because we’re T1, we definitely have to come in first place. When I was with OMG, the mid laner, ‘Cool’, was always watching Faker’s replays. I watched his replays alongside Cool, and to now be a part of the same organization as him fills me up with pride and love for the team.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say?
Bengi: We’ll make sure to work hard for our fans to say, “T1’s just doing T1 things”.
Sayho: Alongside our head coach and our players, we’ll definitely make history. Please continue to support T1.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports