[IGEC] Growing domestic talent in the LCS: "The most important thing to learn as a young player is how to teach yourself."

On the second day of the 2022 Inven Global Esports Conference [IGEC], Inven Global’s Nick Geracie was joined by Evil Geniuses’ Head of Coaching Staff Peter Dun and Path to LCS // Academy broadcast producer Kelsey Moser in the panel, "Growing Domestic Talent in the LCS."


Some of the topics that they discussed in this hour-long panel were their different approaches
within their unique positions, the importance of scouting, and career longevity with rookie players.


How have you had to change your strategy between different positions throughout your career?


Peter started off the discussion by sharing that while EU Masters acts as a strong infrastructure in terms of finding fresh talent for the last five years, such a system was non-existent in NA when he arrived 18 months ago. He shared that NA didn’t really have a clear path to pro, so the players and coaches did not have much competitive experience upon entering the LCS Academy.


"Talent development is not just about finding the right players, but also finding the right coaches to provide the proper environment for the players’ success. Talent development for coaches is just as important, and the coaches themselves need to have an idea on what they need to develop," said Dun.


Kelsey added on the importance of different skillsets being required and having a good understanding of what level your players are at. As for the coaches, it’s hard for development coaches that play more of a supportive role to lead to a championship-winning coaching staff.


"The question then becomes, ‘How can I teach a coach to teach other talent/coaches faster than I can?’" said Moser.


Peter praised the changes to the Proving Grounds circuit, where it now provides the right environment for all fresh NA talent to showcase their skills, no longer having to go through the Academy system. The changes to how teams are seeded into Proving Grounds also strengthened the Academy circuit as a whole, as it integrated the amateur and the Academy scene altogether.


"Having the contrast of amateur teams’ objective in competing, where they compete to win Proving Grounds and showcase their skills, whereas Academy players’ goals are more focused on development through structure is always a good thing," said Dun.


Kelsey dove a bit into the structure within Academy, as she shared that the Academy teams “Will always beholden to the needs of their LCS teams.” She shared that in three of the four splits that she served as head coach, her best players got taken into the LCS. She had no choice but to just accept it and had to reintegrate everything for the Academy team.


Steve Kangas, a caster for LCS Academy

“Find a host named Kangas, and make him work out in front of a camera [laughter]," said Moser.


On the topic of how she keeps the NA fans interested in young NA talent, she shared that the production tries to focus storylines on individual players rather than the teams. She felt that it was important to give personalities to the players to market themselves outside of their gameplay.

How big of a part does scouting actually play in talent development? Do the differences in the regions affect your approach to the entire process?


"Scouting is definitely important. Based on my experience, it’s important to have a system that allows a lot of different opinions without being inefficient," said Dun.


Peter told the panel that there needs to be lots of unique inputs from different channels and that there needs to be a system that allows you to get a single answer by filtering in distinct inputs. He shed some light on how scouting works within EG, as there are four to five people who all have unique ideas on what makes a player good at LoL, further emphasizing the importance of the system.


Kelsey also emphasized the fact each team has its own approach when it comes to scouting. She shared that during her time with 100 Thieves, questions that were asked during discussions became very granular, and through such a process, everyone on the team had very similar ideas of what makes a good player. 


“‘Who is the coach of the team?’ is something that’s important as well," said Moser.


She also emphasized the importance of recognizing the actual coach of the team as well. She mentioned the importance of having an experienced coach for rookie players to draw knowledge from.


Do you think there will be things you can do to specifically help career longevity for rookie players?


“The most important thing to learn as a young player is how to teach yourself," said Moser.


Kelsey shared that the coach’s job should be giving concepts to players to derive and apply to future scenarios. As a rookie player, she shared that the most important skillset to learn is how to teach by themselves.


Peter commented on the ‘sophomore slump’ with the rookies, and that at the end of the day, it’s about “Finding balance within the evolving dynamics within the team. Not just in gameplay, but socially as well.” He added, “It’s important to think about the teammates to not just think of each other as tools for your own success; building a close bond may sound cheesy, but is very important.”


“You generally need two splits to see how well a rookie does," said Dun.

After Peter finished his answer, both panelists answered some questions from the Q&A section on Inven Global’s Discord.

Q1. What is the best way for talent, both players and coaches, from a different region to present themselves to get an opportunity in the LEC or LCS?


Peter: “Teams do open applications. Number one: Know the team you’re applying for. Know the coaching infrastructure that you hope to be a part of, and know how you can contribute. Number two: Respect the region you’re going for. If I ever have to talk to another coach from EU that tells me that they don’t watch NA or any EG games, I… Will not be very pleased [laughter]. 


Third, know the basics about resume presentation and interviewing. If you can’t present yourself to me at an interview at a basic level - like you’re super nervous so you’re not making any sense for example, being late, or your resume looks like it was written by a 12-year-old. Things like this will count against you; first impressions are very important.


More teams are doing open applications, and EG holds them as well in Oct-Nov. What makes an individual stand out, at least from EG’s perspective, is not what you’ve done, but your capability to learn, your self-awareness, and a plan for what will make you better. If you know how to self-teach, then you’ll have a basic understanding of the game, but you’re not expected to be a ‘kkOma’-level coach to get a job as an Academy assistant coach for EG.


First impressions are important, basic fundamentals in coaching theory, and game knowledge is what’s expected.”


Kelsey: “The biggest thing that Peter didn’t mention was DMs. He talked about knowing the team that you’re applying to, so reaching out actively to coaches to see what they’re looking for by asking them specific questions is important. Not questions like ‘How do I get a job?’ or ‘How do I become a good coach?’, but questions like ‘In this particular game, you did this…’ Or ‘You said this on Twitter the other day. What did you mean by that?’ Questions that lead to conversations and discussions, essentially.


Some people will respond to resume feedback DMs as well. I’m less big on the whole ‘respecting the region’ thing. I may or may not have hired someone that said that they didn’t watch any EG games [Peter laughs]. 


Using the social network; when I recently did my videos on the MSI teams, I was reminded again how accessible and global LoL Esports is. I’d DM random players going to MSI to ask a couple of questions, and they just go, “Yeah, sure!” As long as you’re respectful and be clear with why you’re reaching out to them, people tend to be very open. This would be number one.


Number two, for me, would be to not neglect things that people don’t talk about, which is coaching theory. I’ve asked those that aspire to be head coaches, ‘How would you structure a week of practice?’ Some had no idea how to answer that question. Make sure that you’re also thinking about how to coach outside the game as well.”


Q2. Will NA ever see a KR style trainee role, where the player doesn’t have any stage games and are there purely to develop?


Peter: “As long as NA’s Bo1, I don’t think we’re going to have trainees. The reason why Korea and China can afford to have trainees is that they play Bo3s. There’s more room to give trainees some stage time opportunities in Bo3s, but in a Bo1, you just don’t have the opportunity. It’s just really hard. I can imagine it on the coaching side, but on the player side, it’ll be really difficult.”


Kelsey: “The trainee system is very less appealing in NA at the moment. I’ve had two teams that had a sixth man sub but still didn’t get a lot of stage time. As a coach, number one would be to keep them engaged in practice and to have one on one conversations with the players. However, it is a lot to juggle. You’re probably going to screw over the person the first time you try.


As a rookie coach, you make a lot of mistakes, and it’s always about making sure your players and you’re learning at the same time. The regions is still underdeveloped and are the main reason why the trainee system won’t work in NA. Teams may register players as trainees on a roster, but they won’t have the proper program for those trainees.”

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