Vitality has secured its first win of the split during the fifth weekend of the League of Legends European Championship, avoiding the so feared 0-18. Coach Hadrien "Duke" Forestier talked to Lara Lunardi about the team’s underperformance this split, the issues they must face, decompressing from stress and painting Warhammer models.
Until this weekend, your team had gone winless. What has been the biggest issue with Vitality?
The biggest, well, a lot of issues, but the main problem was in trusting our ability to win. I think that without our Mid Laner here and a lot of rookies, we had a lot of expectations, the first losses added up on them and at some point they just lost trust in themselves. Even if we were trying to bring them back up after every loss, inside of their minds, they were playing afraid all the time. We were struggling to have a clear mind during the game, not being able to take the fights that we should, and this was impeding our practice in a sense. Confidence was the main thing, getting snowballed basically, on those losses didn’t help.
Given the losses have affected their mentalities so much, what do you think this first win will do for the team?
I think it should unlock a bit of some other players’ minds. I saw a really good example today with Skeanz, it should be a big relief and have them, in a sense, almost not care, because right now playoffs is almost impossible, we should be basically winning everything, and unless there is a miracle, it’s not gonna happen. We avoided the ultimate shame of 0-18, so we are now going to try to improve ourselves for Summer and now we will take this as a big practice, as we should.
Your team had tweeted thanking Vitality fans for being understanding that this is a rebuilding year. What do you have to say?
This year was a rebuilding year, I think Vitality was in a terrible state last year, especially at the end, I think that it has been going downhill for a really long time, to the point it was really dysfunctional, I would say. We wanted to have a fresh start. Since the market was closed due to the past one year of franchising, we went for the rookie option. The goal is in two years we will bring the team to the top level, but it will take time. I didn’t expect it to be that hard at the beginning, I also expected a lot of other things to go right.
What about the scaling range of your players at this point? Do you think they will be able to compete against the other LEC players or do you foresee more struggles from Vitality moving forward this split?
I hope so, but we are far from it. We are behind in terms of practice, we have to juggle between players back and forth non-stop, we are also behind in terms of confidence, but the past weeks of practicing were not as bad as they should have been. I don’t think we can match the top three LEC teams by the end of the year, but if we do everything we can, we could be at contenders, for example, in Summer. For me, as I said to the management at the beginning of the year, we are all on the same page in this regard. This year we will fight hard for playoffs, so we have to grow and develop the talent and go from here.
"The first losses added up on them and at some point they just lost trust in themselves"
As a coach, what's the feeling of seeing your players go on a big losing streak?
It is pretty rough, last year it was kind of dreamier for us, where we were a small team and went all the way to Worlds quarterfinals, so I kind of knew this year it would be way harder, but that was my choice.
And how does it affect you?
It stresses me out, but I’ve always been really stressed in this job, in general. I already knew this situation, because I started as a coach of Paris Saint Germain, and the situation was similar. There was so much pressure on the players that they couldn’t really play on stage, it was actually worse, because they were really good in scrims, which Vitality is not at the moment and we were never able to show it on stage. I sort of already experienced a nightmare year like this. The two years at Splyce were not that easy either, so I think I learned a lot on how to manage the stress, as in, if I am really disappointed or really sad at the situation, sometimes I feel like I am powerless, and that’s really tough to manage.
Do you think your players can sense that you are stressed?
I don’t think so, I am way better at managing stress now than I was when things were going well, the main thing is that I don’t go on any social media at all. Twitter, YouTube, or whatever, I only even watch the games but not the broadcast, for example.
Why do you avoid it?
Because I know what I am going to hear... I’ve been in the business for three years, I know what I am going to hear, I know I can handle the flame and that I will get triggered by things that are said wrong, or are just false. Since I know what I am going to read, I don’t need to have a waste of time in general, it’s not like that will make me improve on anything. If I have some free time I’d prefer to paint or to read.
You paint? That’s cool.
I paint, models.
Oh that’s awesome!
Yeah, I can show you:
I’ve been playing Warhammer since I was eight, but stopped when I was fifteen or sixteen. Two years ago I got hired by Splyce and I was looking for something to do. I kind of stopped playing League of Legends so much, sometimes I play, but I don’t play ranked. I just needed something to unwind after work and I always dreamt of doing this, because they were kind of expensive, and now I have the means to do it, so I paint it every night a bit, watching Netflix. I am slowly arriving at my 2,000 points of Death Korps.
How do you decompress with your players? Do you guys ever play table top?
No, no. I think one of the issues we also had is that we had been looking for a new office, but now we have a new place and will start to implement things like sports. It’s really hard for players to decompress because I think a lot of times they don’t know how. Most of them don’t really go out, but we are starting with sports this week, we try to take them out for restaurants, we will take them out for beers tonight after the game.
What do you have to say to the Vitality fans that have been keeping up with the ups and downs?
I am really grateful for the Vitality fans, they are die-hard compared to other teams I worked with. The only thing I do on Twitter is watch my notifications, so I always see positive messages from fans, saying that we should keep trying. It’s nice to see that even through tough times they are still with us. I know it’s been rough and I saw the excitement they had at the beginning of the year, which was disproportionate to what I actually think we are going for. This is a rebuilding year, for sure. I am a bit sorry for those who thought we were competing for the top three, but I am grateful for those who cheer for us despite our not so great showing so far. We are working day and night to come back and I think they will be happier then.