The Mindset of the World Championship Teams 2018
Winning isn´t just talent
The League of Legends world championship 2018 has come to an end. We saw from the beginning of the tournament “play-ins”, some upsets from minor region teams who were overperforming. After, western teams were taking down the favourite Koreans and Chinese teams and finally a western hope, making it to the grand final after 7 years.
Although Fnatic weren’t able to bring it home, this tournament will remain in the memory of many for years to come. Now that all the hype has ended, we can reflect on what actually happened.
Many players, coaches and journalists gave their opinion about “why western teams performed better than Korean and some Chinese ones?”. Some of those reasons included changes in the game that affected the macro, this led to favourite teams performing uncharacteristically allowing other teams to play with high aggression. Some others highlighted that some Asian teams were disrespecting the West by making mistakes during the draft.
As many of you may know, I’m not a player or coach with any in-depth game knowledge, and I don’t attempt to have, therefore, I will give my point of view from the performance side. This includes interdisciplinary perspectives coming from psychology, nutrition, exercise, daily habits etc. which all affect how one plays on stage.
In theory, this stage shouldn’t be an obstacle for teams from major regions. The fight between the so-called “Top Dogs vs Under Dogs” was present. Whilst any team can have either mindset (i.e. being in a top dog or underdog position) the difference underpinning which one succeeds depends on how you play your position to your advantage. You could be a top dog, but you need to carefully plan and execute properly what you prepared.
Understanding that, whether the odds are in your favour or not, will help with not underestimating your opponents. If you take the underdog approach you still need to make sure that you are covering all the controllable aspects and avoiding that playing against a “better team” affects you.
The level of performance shown during play-ins by the European team “G2”, at certain moments, wasn’t meeting their dominant expectations.
Another example was the excellent performance of the Latin-American team “Infinity eSports” after upsetting the Chinese team “EDG” and complicating things for “G2” during the qualification series for the main event. Therefore, the management of expectations affected some teams’ performances both positively and negatively.
Just because your team is classified as an underdog does not quantify your desire to win. Being in this situation automatically takes a certain pressure of expectation of your team which may give you the space to manage effectively in your favour.
Some wildcard teams went out there against top teams, played fearlessly and with a “nothing to lose” mindset. This approach was expressed by Luka “Perkz” Perković, this shows that you could be both top dog and underdog at the same tournament and if you are able to manage both perceptions you can achieve great success.
A missed opportunity
Finally, everyone is wondering what happened to Fnatic during the final. Many pro players predicted that IG would win it. Whether those predictions come from knowing that IG was a stronger team or from holding the dream to have the possibility to be the first western players to win Worlds. Either way, many interesting and unfortunate situations led to Fnatic lose this last series.
Fnatic´s coach Joey “Youngbuck” mentioned that due to “physical fitness”, “living from hotel to hotel for 7-8 weeks” and “too much practice and too little time off” took a toll on them and made them underperform in the finals.
I totally agree with Joey and couldn’t help but notice, just by their body language, that during the finals’ ceremony the players were looking physically and mentally exhausted. This leads to making poor decisions, getting affected by the crowd, the big stage, and the stakes of the series. Being physically and mentally exhausted is a normal situation at a high-performance level, however, teams can manage and avoid these issues.
To clarify, Worlds is a high-pressure environment. The human body can’t support a long-lasting workload under high pressure without a balanced plan. Joeymentioned factors that are avoidable by trusting on professionals who know strategies about how to cope with those issues. For instance, sport psychologist and performance coaches. Sometimes, coaches and players underestimate how powerful guidance on managing expectations or having quality break could benefit them and by quality, I don’t mean spending the whole day watching Netflix, anime or playing other games.
Let´s take care of our talent
Specific daily habits, like diet, physical activity, sleeping strategies, mental training, prevention of injuries, etc., should be part of the teams’ planning but usually, when some teams are struggling is when they start looking for help.
I believe this is slowly changing in the pro-scene but the message for organizations and coaches is to pay more attention to the mental health of their teams. Like Perkz mentioned in an interview, he was struggling and trying to prevent further issues of mental health and/or burnout. In the end, he has a lucky story to tell, as he took the right approach, but maybe more inexperienced players or coaches could be right now struggling with it.
The industry is growing faster and with the natural pressure and stress of elite performance, the inclusion and support of qualified experts it’s necessary to accompany players and coaches.
Credit: Riot Games • Flickr.com * Michal Konkol