[Interview] 15 Years in One Club: Coach Edgar, Who Led Samsung Galaxy to the Championship

A rookie coach forms a team of amateurs and they become the world’s best team in 3 years.

It is interesting that such a thing has happened in the eSports scene. The fact it has means that coach Choi “Edgar” Woo-beom has accomplished a great achievement. Coach Edgar led the team to the World Championship in 3 years, after first becoming head coach for Samsung Galaxy. He had been in one team for 15 years; from player to coach, coach to head coach.

Did he think that he would be so successful when he first became head coach?

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Coach Edgar smiled.

“At first I didn’t have the time to think about anything like that. When I first became head coach, we didn’t have a single player or coach. I had to fill the roster quickly, and it was lucky that we were able to compete in the season.

After completing the roster, I did think that even when we were fighting as underdogs, things were going well with the team. Watching the players grow, I thought that with time, everything would become better.

Actually, I didn’t think about success or failure as a head coach. I always thought about what I could do to make the kids better, because my success will come from their success.”

The path of Samsung Galaxy was dramatic all the way. Starting from being the underdog of the LCK, becoming a favorite after signing Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong, getting to Worlds, and winning it all. What did coach Edgar think his key to success was?

“My players listen well to what the coaches say, and I speak in a stern voice when I think it is needed. (Laughs) When my players don’t do what the coaches tell them to do, I ask them to just try first.

Isn’t that the proper way? If the coaching staff tells players what to do, and the players don’t listen, there’s no point to having a coaching staff. The players can do everything on their own. If a player has a different opinion, like if they want to play a different champion, that player needs to get approval from the other teammates. Players feel the strong champions while they play together. We need to play the champions whose win rates are high, and the ones that all teammates agree on.”

Coach Edgar always says that the team comes before the players. His method of coaching was focused on ‘one team’. Five people with different thoughts; it’s the coach’s role to bring them together.

“I tried hard to set a good example. If practice begins at 1 o’clock, I sat at the practice room waiting before 1, I saw more videos than the players, more solo-q’s and I did more research. Actually, watching videos in detail is quite tiring. Some people don’t watch as thoroughly, too.

I told the players only the information that was genuinely good. That way, the players understand what is good about that while playing themselves. Trust sprouted from the little parts like that.

I also have a rule when managing players. Do not be late for practice. You know, it’s natural, not being late. The players can learn more when players scrim with a clear mind, but if they start playing as soon as they wake up, not much will be left. At first, the players had a hard time, but it got better.

Another rule is: do not blame others. Never. Losing is alright, but the teamwork shatters when/if they blame each other. Of course, that player may have been the cause of the loss, but I think it’s better when it’s not said. All the feedback I give is just these basic things.”

Another virtue a head coach needs is being able to see the potential of the players. Seeing the potential that a player has, and bringing out that potential, filling in the parts of the team that are lacking. Coach Edgar proved that over the years, by discovering many players.

“I watched a lot of games, solo-q, challengers. I have three standards when I pick players. First is the number of games played, second is the number of champions he can play, and the third is his rank points. I think there’s no point to the rank points when it’s above a certain level.

The reason I prioritize the number of games played is simple: he’s putting a lot of effort into playing the game. For example, with the equal amount of time given, someone plays 600 games, and another plays 1400. Of course the one who played less games could be better, but I think that the latter has a higher possibility of becoming better. If he has the talent and has the effort, he’ll be the best.

The number of champions is important in the professional scene. There are many people who play 2-3 champions to raise their rank, but that’s useless in the pro scene. Someone who can be successful in the pro scene, needs to be good at all champions.”

Coach Edgar spoke on the many traits of his players. The talent Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk has, the enthusiastic calls of Cho “CoreJJ” Yong-in, the effort of Lee “Crown” Min-ho, appraising the veteran Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong and his trust with Lee “CuVee” Sung-jin. The detailed description of his players illustrated his affection towards them.

“At first, I really had a hard time. I endured it well, I think. The preliminary to Worlds from last year was a good experience for our team, it made our team change. It was like a miracle, we beat a team that we had never beaten before.

I sometimes still watch that match when I’m going through hard times. I showed my players the same video when we had a bad performance at Worlds saying, ‘Look! We were this good!’

I’m worried a lot about the players. I’m afraid that they may become content and lazy. I also feel more pressure than before, since there’s no place above here. We have to make it to Worlds at least, but that itself isn’t easy. In that matter, I think that the coaching staff of SKT T1 is really outstanding. They’ve been doing their job with this pressure for several years.

We’ll do our best, since all the other teams will, too. It’s important to keep up the hard work, and not be arrogant. I’m thankful to everybody; it was such a happy year. I’m thankful for the fans, who came such a long way to cheer us on, the coaches, players, staff, my wife who was always helpful to me whenever I had a hard time. I’m also thankful for the teams who scrimmed with us when we were the underdogs, too.”

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