Last week esports data startup DOJO Madness announced the acquisition of LeagueCoaching.gg in a move to add a human coaching element to their existing offering.
DOJO run the successful application LOLSUMO which leverages historic data on players’ games to provide action points for how they can improve their game. The deal sees LeagueCoaching.gg co-founders Weldon Green and Joshua Hilton join DOJO Madness in lead capacities.
Weldon Green is a man with considerable experience in the League of Legends coaching. He’s coached CLG, Renegades, Fnatic, Team Liquid and TSM to name a few. He is currently the assistant coach for G2 Esports.
Esports Insider had the chance to speak to Weldon about LeagueCoaching and the importance of mental resilience in esports.
ESI: What’s the aim of the deal bringing LeagueCoaching.GG and DOJO together?
Weldon: The aim of the deal is simply to make sure that everyone who wants to get better can get better. There are some people that are super dedicated, disciplined and can just take data from a coaching app and use it to improve (i.e. LOLSUMO). Then on the contrary, there are some people that need the human element. They need someone to empathise with; someone for reflection; a person that can see their play when they can’t because they don’t have the level of implicit learning wired up just yet.
We can objectively say that this coach is “better at changing the behaviours that lead to higher performance than this coach”
Most adults can get there at some point. Then again, not everyone can teach themselves and some people need a trainer and arguably more importantly, some enjoy playing with a coach. Even if they could teach themselves, a coach will accelerate their learning significantly. I’m not sure how infused we’ll be with their app but it’s a feasible alternative.
At the end of the day, we’re not going to be an amazing solution for 100% of users in the LOLSUMO app, but I have no doubt we’ll be able to improve certain people’s games.
ESI: With the acquisition does anything change in the immediate future?
Weldon: We’re going to offer our top coaches in the LOLSUMO app to people who may want that human layer of teaching.
We have a competitive open marketplace for coaches on our website. When we say top coaches we don’t mean top coaches as in the ones we recruit and recommend; we mean we track the impact a coach has on their players’ growth trajectory so we have a metric of the impact from before the coaching happened to after and that changes their rating.
We coalesce that across a huge number of coaching stats – so we’ll compare it to the rank of the players and thus we can objectively say that this coach is “better at changing the behaviours that lead to higher performance than this coach” and they get ranked on our site. We have 20,000 registered coaches and when I say top 10, I mean top ten coaches in terms of performance impact they have on their players that they coach. These are people that can really improve other people’s games.
ESI: Obviously you have an extensive background in League coaching. Has that led you to where you are now? Is the project borne from a desire to breed the next generation of coaches?
Weldon: My background is in youth development through sport and as a professional coach at the youth level. I didn’t care about the particular sport that I was coaching, I used the sports I was coaching to develop the children I was working with. When I moved into elite performance in esports, it became the same thing. How do you develop as a person or a human through the pursuit of world class craft?
“People enter the pro scene and amateur scene with a lot less in terms of mental resilience and therefore I see it as the easiest place to modify, for the largest gains.”
I’m more interested in the kind of champion that is a legacy champion. A champion that wins championship after championship because of the nature of their character instead of somebody who gets lucky and wins one tournament. I believe that it’s something that sport can offer humanity both in terms of development of youth and people at the world class level.
I believe that in esports there’s going to be a massive explosion of amateur competition. The movement has started in esports and it’s gradually starting to become something done in schools, in communities and as a result I think it’ll go offline very fast.
In my opinion, it’s just so much more satisfying to see somebody that you’re worse than on stage one week; train all week and then beat them the next week. That’s development. This is what competitors want, it’s what parents want (even though they don’t know it yet) and it’s certainly what communities want. The esports industry at the top at the moment is basically just a media and entertainment industry; the amateur level brings real value to communities that even help grow small business in the area.
Take local hockey teams for example: they require local sponsorships and provide local value. If you put a value on the hockey industry, a lot of that wealth is in the local communities and small businesses. Sure at the top end they have incredible scope of their business, say NHL and the pro leagues but then you have a pyramid. That’s where this is really all going. Our app aims to facilitate education and development of coaches that can then supply the amateur teams with real tangible development.
ESI: How different is the coaching level from traditional sports to esports? Is the mental element more important?
Weldon: No I feel like it is less important and that’s probably why people develop it less. In traditional sport you have to undergo intense pain in your body in order to be a teenage athlete. When I was a teenager, I had to train between 3-5 hours a day, for five days a week. I had to wake up early in the morning and jump in cold pools and do things which were insufferable to most of my peers at school. I had to wake up sore every single day, I had to force myself to eat in a certain way and it’s a combination of all of those things that lead to the development of the mental side.
It builds mental resilience, the ability to discipline oneself and enjoy the process. It’s painful now but you get the satisfaction in the long term of victory. For example, the ability to push yourself to, say, the point where you might throw-up. You know that despite that feeling you might win the next weekend which kind of makes it worth it. That simply doesn’t happen in esports. People enter the pro scene and amateur scene with a lot less in terms of mental resilience and therefore I see it as the easiest place to modify, for the largest gains.
When you go into an esports team who want to get better fast, one of the best things to do is to just improve their mental resilience. When we started League of Legends seven or so years ago, I would say most of the people at the pro level were gamers. Now at the top tier of competition, you can’t be a gamer and be a League of Legends professional. You basically have to be an athlete. There’s a lot more transitional athletes in and around the scene now. That’s people that did sports at junior level but then went and focused on League of Legends. In fact, there’s a superfluous number of them now when you compare them to before. Even if you look at body shape and type now, in order to train to win you can’t necessarily be unhealthy as it may hinder your focus. When it comes to top teams across the board a lot of them are tackling performance from every single paradigm – be it mental, physical or strategic.
I think unfortunately esports is under developed mentally but it makes it an easy lever to pull for improved performance, especially at the amateur level. The pro level, where people are losing (the bottom five teams in the teams) that’s one of the key issues.
ESI: Is it more important to be mentally resilient in esports?
Weldon: Most esports are based around reflex and skill elements bar certain games like Hearthstone where it’s all mental. When it’s based around reflexes it means volume training. That means you’re using the same system in your brain as you would do for say: trap shooting or even for cross country skiing. You’re using the motor cortex and it’s tied into the visual system. In that way I would say that yes, you can get a lot better in soccer by having insane training regimes that make you incredibly fit and just allow you to be better at the game even though you may have a “mental deficit”.
I don’t think it means that it’s any less important in traditional sports. I just think the gains you can make in esports right now just through some simple resilience building are astounding.