Team BDS got off to a rough start in the 2022 LEC Summer Split: they went 0-3 in the opening weekend of the competition. Especially galling were the losses against Astralis and SK Gaming, with whom BDS rubbed shoulders in the lower regions of the standings last Split, which put an unwelcome hurdle in BDS's way on their path to contest higher spots.
The results also come after a multi-week bootcamp in South Korea, where the team brought both its LEC roster and LFL roster to improve. Their time in camp ultimately led to BDS making the decision to bring top laner Tobiasz "Agresivoo" Ciba and support player Robert "Erdote" Nowak to the LEC lineup.
Still, BDS head coach Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann remains patient. In an interview with Inven Global's Tom Matthiesen, GrabbZ spoke in-depth about the bootcamp his team set up, how it was orchestrated, and what the goal was. He also reflected on the efficacy of the rigid training camp and how it impacted on his team heading into the Summer Split.
Before we talk about the weekend itself, I want to take it back to the end of the Spring Split. You ended up in ninth place, which was a disappointing finish. How do you look back on that?
Usually, I'm a guy that likes to take the bullet for my team, right? But I think I made it really clear that, towards the end of the Split, players just didn't put in the energy that they should have. Not only as rookies but also just as athletes, respecting the job they have. Therefore we went for a Korean bootcamp where we took all ten players, Academy included. We had multiple criteria. We had internal scrims, and it wasn't just about who played better. It was about behavior, who showed the most drive to take the teammates and talk about the game, trying to improve together. So, we made our changes, and I was pretty happy with what we had in terms of attitude.
But yeah, for Spring, there would be several times where the play wasn't even disappointing, but the attitude was disrespectful of what we have to do as pro players. That, I think, is the worst. If they're rookies and they don't know how to play the game, that's my fault. But if they don't take the first step to put in the work, then that's something not even I can take the bullet for.
"They have to sweat for their job, as harsh as it sounds"
You mention the bootcamp in South Korea; first of all, how was it? How was it to be back in the country?
[Laughs] It was really stressful, especially for the players. Ultimately, that is something I wanted because they have to sweat for their job, as harsh as it sounds. In hindsight, it was a bit too long. In that time period, you don't really focus on team play. Sure, you can talk about certain things, but you don't really improve macro-wise. It's just more about showing their capabilities as a player. I think these two, almost three weeks in Korea, almost broke players in a way. They were really anxious about having a spot or not. So, in hindsight, it could've been shorter and a bit different.
Ultimately though, I think we also managed to do what we wanted to accomplish. Especially someone like Agresivoo is somebody who excels at taking his teammates and talking about the game. That was something we were really missing. If Duffman and I didn't say anything, then there was no communication. There was no process of improving. Now we have someone who actually gets the ball rolling.
Someone who takes charge.
Yeah, I'm really happy with that, and that has at least improved. It is visible, even though the results are not something I'm happy with of course. Maybe the Korean bootcamp is also at fault in some way. But I feel like the lessons we learned in Spring are just completely gone. Especially if you watch the game Astralis. We're put behind by the Ornn and we still decide to take the fight — I'm not sure how to explain that. But there is still some weeks to play, right?
I do want to take it back to the bootcamp more because I don't think many people know what something like that looks like on the inside. You yourself spent many years on G2, where the position of the players was never really a question. Can you talk a bit more about the structure of the bootcamp?
For me, it was lots of fun. I think this is also how a team should operate. I think in Europe, Misfits was the only one who did this 10-man roster thing, but it is really important how you build it up. As I mentioned back in Spring, sure, I want to win, but this is a long-term plan. Two to three years. I want to have an organization where all ten players ultimately always contest each other. Then, of course, it comes down to the coaching staff what the criteria are.
We also got to know our academy team better, which was really hard before because they're based in Geneva. I was really happy about seeing every player interact with each other. There'll always be the argument that people are scared of their jobs and then will have constant clashes, but it was a really friendly atmosphere.
So, the way it was set up, is that we had scrims of the main team against the LEC team, and in the second scrim block we would mix them up. If someone played really well, or if we wanted to see a certain configuration of players, we just mixed them. We also had scrims against the weaker MSI teams, like Team Aze and PSG Talon. We also played against G2 a few times. We made one team in the mix and saw how that went against the other team.
The solo queue environment, unfortunately, wasn't perfect. We didn't get the notification that Riot doesn't give super accounts anymore, so we lost a lot of practice time on solo queue. Now that I think about it, in hindsight, we should have set it up differently. But it was really weird to tell players "this is how you play for a spot" and then they have to play 100 games until they get to a level where the good players are. That also did not help our efforts in the bootcamp.
"In the environment of esports, many players are not at a point where you can call them athletes in the way they think about the sport"
Was every spot up for discussion on the main lineup?
Yeah. I mean, the coaching staff had some ideas, of course, about who had more to prove. But in general, everybody had to show that they were trying to be a pro player. For me and for Duff, it's really important that we came here to make players better. But if these players don't want to become better, then it's wasted time for everybody, right? I think it's fair that they have made this mistake one time. It's really easy, right? You have your job, you know the playoffs are gone, why even bother? So, I really hope that they've learned at least and that this doesn't happen again. If it does, that player doesn't even get a chance for a bootcamp. [Laughs] Then it's just lights out.
I think that every coach who reads this will recognize it. It's not only BDS. It's just that, in the environment of esports, many players are not at a point where you can call them athletes in the way they think about the sport. Some players are, a really small amount, but not everybody.
It's a certain level of maturity.
Exactly. It's also experience that's very important. The environment doesn't help, where you play solo queue until you're 16 and then hopefully you get brought up. In sports, you play since you're eight years old and you have time to become that player. So, it's not only on the players.
Ultimately, the bootcamp was the first step towards trying to make BDS the org we want it to be. It's also really important to us that we didn't go to the market and look for any players from the outside. We want to make sure that people know that, if we have our academy, that's our main looking point. We want to make these players better and give them a realistic chance to play in the LEC. So, it was really important for us to give them the opportunity to come to Korea and not just say "Oh there's a free agent, let's just bring him in." Then the other guys in the academy would be like "What's the fucking point of being here, besides playing for the org?" I think it was an important step to make it more cohesive, in a way.
One situation I do want to ask you about is the unfortunate situation with LIMIT. Towards the end of the bootcamp and the offseason, he wasn't gonna be part of the main lineup. Then he also wasn't going to be part of the academy lineup, but it was so late into the offseason that he couldn't find a team anymore. I don't want to point to you and say it's solely your fault, but BDS as an org knows how the offseason works, they know how quickly teams want to pick up other players. So, can you talk about how that situation came to be where he's stuck with the shit?
I'm really sorry to Dino for that, and I can talk about how we're trying to fix it afterward, but it came down to... It's probably my fault, I guess I'm head coach and I have to know about these things. There is a certain ERL rule, where you can only have three veterans. I wasn't aware of it and I guess my managers weren't around and my academy coach wasn't aware either. We didn't want him to be gone from the org, right? The whole point was, as I said before, that he went down but had a chance to improve again.
Then, at the airport in Korea, I'm being told that this doesn't work. We now would have Adam as a veteran, because he played two Splits in the LEC, and Crownshot and LIMIT. Then we made the call that LIMIT is probably the one who could handle this... disgusting situation — I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, it should never happen — the most maturely. I'm happy to take the responsibility if I have to. Next time, I'll make sure to read the rulebooks of every ERL and have them in my head. But he's the most mature person to handle it.
It was also really important for me and Duff to say, in the line of being an org that gives players a second chance, "You know what, come to Berlin. You'll still get your salary and you'll still be a part of the team." He has the option to say he doesn't want to of course, but we're giving him a chance to be an assistant coach. To be part of scrims, to be part of how we think about the game. He was with us in the studio, he's watching scrims with us, he gets his room to talk with players and to give them some input.
This way, at least, we're trying to make him not waste time, and he can maybe grow from a different perspective. He can also work on some of the issues he had. Funnily enough, the way he communicates in the game, sometimes it was really hard for him to find the right words in a correct emotional setting. I think, doing it from the outside is way easier for him.
Of course, that is sugarcoating him being shit on by our wrong decisions. I'm not gonna try to make it look better than it is, but I think from all the situations that there were, this is the best compromise we could find. I can take responsibility for it. I was not aware of the rule. Ultimately, as the head coach, that is my fault.
"I'm not gonna judge our season by if we are sixth, fifth, or eighth, but by how we are progressing. Right now, we aren't progressing. Of course, it's only one weekend."
Alright, to round it up then: you have the new lineup and there will obviously be some adjustment period again, with Agresivoo and Erdote coming in. Last Split, your goals were to contest for the playoffs. What are they now?
I still think it's possible. Even last Split, we only had four wins, but if people watch week three to six, there were so many games we could have won that we flipped. We could have easily had a better win rate. I don't think Europe is particularly great right now. I mean, it's easy to say because we're 0-2, so I'm not gonna sit here and criticize everybody.
Ultimately though, I think we want to do the same as in Spring: develop the players and make sure that they are ready for the big stages. My mindset, and this goes for Duff as well, is that we're not gonna be sixth and celebrate it. It doesn't matter if I get sixth place or seventh place, as long as my players get better. I'm not gonna band-aid or practice to say "let's get to playoffs" and then lose 3-0 in the first round. Other teams might celebrate that, but I don't think that's something that Duff and I came to BDS for.
So, I'm really disappointed by how we played, but the goal can still be to have decent games and then pick up the players who have internalized what Duff and I want to play like. Then we take these players as cornerstones for future seasons. I'm not gonna judge our season by if we are sixth, fifth, or eighth, but by how we are progressing. Right now, we aren't progressing. Of course, it's only one weekend. We have seven more weeks to kick some butts internally and make them realize how you play League of Legends. [Laughs] Or at least how the coaching staff sees the game. Maybe it doesn't work, and that's on us, or maybe it works, and then we have a good cornerstone for the next Splits.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.