Samsung Galaxy took down SKT T1 to claim the throne at the final stage of LoL World Championship 2017. It was a result that not a lot of people easily saw coming. More than anything, Chan-Yong “Ambition” has shown beyond incredible performances, finally reaching the very top of his career after 7 long years since his debut. His plays were sharp and simply impeccable. In addition, Min-ho “Crown” Lee recovered from his performance slump from previous games. Samsung Galaxy thus made a superhero story come true.
Behind such dramatic story of success stands their head coach, Woo-bum “Edgar” Choi. While he was a former franchise star of the team himself, he was not able to build an impressive career as a player. After his retirement as a player, he started coaching at the team and built up his career as a leader. Slow and steady, just like Samsung Galaxy’s style, he took careful steps up the ladder. In 2015 when he first became the head coach he focused solely on learning, and in 2016 he pushed himself to make up for what he lacks. After such hard work, in 2017 he led his team to become the world champions and let the world know of the rise of a great leader.
Every year, every team from all the different regions go through changes. Within LCK, many different players are evaluated and priced in the transfer market. However, Samsung Galaxy always stood a step away from the market. Because coach Choi had been through ups and downs as a player himself, he decided to give each of his existing players. If he felt that he really needed to recruit, he focused on changing the team’s overall atmosphere more. In the middle of such care were Ambition and Jae-hyuk “Ruler” Park.
His Unique Recruitment Philosophy
His choices were not wrong
When he was arranging his team with new members in 2015, he carefully checked the plays of amateur candidates. One thing that stands out from his recruitment method was that he looked at the potential in a player rather than his current form. He thus chose Jimin “Wraith” Kwon as to be the mast of the ship.
The first goal was to remain in the league. They struggled through the promotions stage and was able to survive. However, they did not have an appropriate mid laner. Crown, who joined the team, later on, was still quite inexperienced and failed to satisfy the fans. Nevertheless, coach Choi decided to put him in and believed that if he trusted him he would pay it back with good performance.
Samsung Galaxy was full of worry, with their roster made of “mediocre” players whose names were not even very known. Coach Choi’s eyes then turned to Ambition, whose role was quite vague in CJ Entus at the moment. As all coaching staffs have to leave things solely to the players once the game begins, he decided to recruit a strong leader who can direct the team of inexperienced teammates.
After Ambition’s transfer into the team, Samsung Galaxy transformed into a completely different team. While CuVee-Crown-CoreJJ-Stitch still showed signs of lack of experience, they were not running around the circle not knowing what to do anymore. The team learned how to united under the name of Ambition.
Just like that, they finished their spring split as a 6th place, and coach Choi once again diagnosed the weakness of the team. While CuVee and Crown were improving, the two AD carry players from bottom lane could not quite show their strength. As he watches every game from Challengers to solo queue and even international games, he ran across Ruler.
After offering him the entrance examination, he quickly decided to recruit him. He then convinced Yong-in “CoreJJ” Cho, with great briefing abilities, to change his player position. He thus led Samsung Galaxy to become the semifinalists of world championship through the recruitment of a nearly anonymous rookie and utilization of an existing player’s strength.
This was not the end. He approached repairing his players’ weaknesses as a long process rather than a quick one. During a period in which Ambition was repeating similar mistakes and the fans were complaining in disappointment, he decided to recruit a jungler who fitted the meta and showed great potential, Min-Seung “Haru” Kang and led the team to success in the spring split once again.
Head Coach to Put in as much effort as the Players Do
He goes on the Worlds stage, right by his players
With the story of Crown playing several thousands of solo queue games, Samsung Galaxy has become known as the team of efforts. Coach Choi too, put in as much effort as the players did. Because many teams have a coach designated to direct the team games, coach Choi could have had an easy role as a head coach. Coach Chang-dong “TrAce” Yeo actually did complete his task very well this year.
However, coach Choi refused to take things easy and continued to search for ways to improve. He supervised the players’ scrims during scheduled practices and looked at the solo queue games of high-ranked amateur players during his break time. When official schedules are done, he watched international leagues of his players and dedicated most of his time to LoL.
With so much effort, he reached a level where he could point out the small mistakes the coaches failed to catch. Players were able to trust in such head coach, who understands their plays. One of the driving forces of Samsung Galaxy’s growth was the detailed and extensive feedback.
Coach Choi grew enough to be capable of directly leading picks and bans from Worlds 2016 and on. He carefully examined his players’ item builds, and never took a break from studying the current meta. Had he not been so passionate and caring about his players and his team, Samsung Galaxy’s recruitments may have had another ending.
No Player is Bigger Than the Team
The team system is fair for everyone
There is a well-known cliché in the field of tournaments, which goes: ‘No Player is Bigger Than the Team.’ Coach Choi followed this philosophy more than any other leader. No matter how good a player is, the coach refused to give any powerful voice to anyone unless more than the necessity. Giving feedbacks was the coaching staffs’ tasks, and the players kept the rule of sharing each one’s opinion without any hierarchy.
Many professional game teams face conflicts during the process of practice, such as wanting to play a certain champion against other’s thoughts or demanding to focus on one’s growth over other factors. Coaching staffs are there to mediate such conflicts and keep the balance, and coach Choi provided equal opportunities for everyone – but, only after he masters the team composition that the team prepared together.
His equality-based coaching method is clearly shown in the previous regionals stage, where picks like Ambition’s Skarner, CuVee’s Kennen, or Wraith’s support Syndra-Sejuani from before surprised the community. Although now they are accepted as a standard, he had always opened up opportunities for the players to try something new.
In addition to this, he did not hesitate to put a substitute player into the match when they have shown good performances during practice. It is to make them stay motivated and keep their self-esteem up. If he had neglected the sub players performing well and stuck to the starting lineup, the team’s balance would have likely collapse. He has always had the weight of responsibility for whatever result the team gets up on his shoulders.
He, still, has not always given carrots to the players. When the team’s atmosphere is bad, he braced the team with a stick. He especially has never tolerated any action that disrupts the teamwork. He always stressed that, regardless of during practice or official matches, the team has to work together to get over any hardship. It was based on his belief that the hardship must be treated as the team’s fault instead of a single player’s, and only unity will make the team overcome it.
It is very hard to unite people with various personalities, and that’s why many leaders rack their brains over uniting the members. It was because of coach Choi, probably, that Samsung Galaxy could unite as a strong team to achieve such incredible success.