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TSM vs Cloud9 Coaching Philosophy: Reginald Limits Authority, Jack Empowers Agency

Izento 2018-07-11 03:14:25
  Coaches are now in the spotlight as Cloud9’s Repeared has benched Jensen, Sneaky and Smoothie, much to the chagrin of the community. Recently also, Coach Ssong of TSM has been moved to strategic coach and Lustboy has been promoted to the stage coach position. These two teams represent very different ideologies and while both have their merits, C9 allows for the coach to have more control of the team. Let’s look deeper into the different philosophies of coaching and what precisely separates C9 from TSM, both past and present. Repeared’s statement about moving his star players to the Academy team was based upon the quality in practice and results that the Academy players have shown, as it seems the drive isn’t there for his main roster. Jack recently said in an interview with Travis Gafford that he fully supports Repeared’s decision and the impression is that he’s looking to build a team based around winning, not favoritism. While many will point towards C9's win/loss record to be incriminating evidence that C9's management decision was incorrect, the timespan from when the main roster was benched to our current timeline of Week 3 just finishing up (and C9 going 0-2) is besides the point. If players are creating a bad culture within the team, whether that be a refusal to practice meta picks, increase in toxicity or an unwillingness to listen to management, winning is the least of your concern at that point. Perpetuating a team culture that facilitates player's wants over their needs is something which can destroy a team, simply because they're only looking at it from a limited perspective. Shortsightedness can destroy a franchise, but preparing and instilling a good environment is what allows a team to succeed in the long term. Which then takes us to franchising and the power it gives to teams.

Meteos and Pr0lly.

Meteos is a player which showcased his skills within the Spring Split and was off to a fantastic start for Summer Split, but has been removed from the roster, presumably due to internal conflicts, but it all began with the roster change for Rift Rivals. This is another very controversial roster upset which is another sign that organizations are taking power into their own hands and are not afraid of removing a player they deem inadequate for their environment. With the introduction of franchising, organizations can make bolder moves to shift players as they see fit in order to project towards a prosperous future. Previously, an organization was constantly in fear of relegation, so players had much more power in the dichotomy of coach to player. Franchising has created a supplementary difference in the playerbase and skill that LCK has comparatively to NA, allowing NA to freely let go of the hostage situation that star players previously could hold against a team. There is always some room for a player to have authority in this current system too, especially if they’re a star player such as Faker, which SKT has been molded around time and again. Losing control over star players is one major downfall of a coach’s power. Locodoco coaching TSM circia 2014-2015.

Locodoco coaching TSM circa 2014-2015.

Locodoco, head coach of TSM from 2014-2015 and even winning coach of the split in 2015 Spring Split, was removed from his position due to a lack of ability to facilitate healthy discussion among the team members . Reginald had also said that “Loco’s authority is not above the players”.  Reginald then stepped in to fill the head coach role, but the dilemma with this is that he also plays the role of owner, which is the greatest point of authority for any organization. Reginald has far more agency than any coach could ever hope to attain, and it doesn’t solve the problem if Reginald is always looming in the background, undermining the coach. Locodoco is a great example of losing authority, as he lost agency due to a clash with Bjergsen, the star player of the team. While it is very much correct for a star player to have more agency over his peers, because he should be allocated more resources to carry and strategy should somewhat encapsulate his theories, there should be a definitive line that should never be crossed in regards to star player and coach interaction. If there is a disagreement and an outcome cannot be decided, a conversation in private should happen as to not tarnish the image of the coach or player. The reason for this is not to unduly create a facade of power, but it allows each player to discuss their concerns about the team. A discussion will naturally be guided by those who are most vocal, with others staying silent. This is not how a team should operate. If the star player doesn’t follow the leader, the rest of the wolf pack will follow suit. In wild wolf packs, the leader asserts their dominance by showing their teeth and proving they have the right to eat first and the subordinates show their belly, lying on their back in a display of deference. The rest of the wolf pack learns from this and a challenge is less likely to appear due to this display of ferocity. Humans aren’t so different when it comes to challenging authority. If one person challenges the leader and it is unabated, others will feel comfortable following in their stead of defiance. To control a wolf pack, you must control the leader, and Locodoco was never able to fully control and gain the respect of Bjergsen. C9 have taken a different approach to coaching, which may borrow from the Korean culture of authority. Korean coaches aren’t afraid to bench a player because they know there are plenty more waiting for a chance to take their spot. This culture breeds competitiveness and allows for LCK to have competitive starting rosters. The age hierarchy exists as well to help buffer this system, but it is clear that LCK’s coaches have a high amount of agency from their organization to make necessary changes to perform at the highest level. Previously, back in 2016, Hai announced his departure from C9 (again), so they brought in BunnyFufu to take over for the role of shotcaller. This was a tough decision for both Jack and the coaching staff of C9, but one which they made and fully transitioned from successfully. TSM can be praised in this same regard, as they removed WildTurtle from their squad after Season 5, with him returning for a split in Season 7 Spring Split due to the absence of their star ADC Doublelift. One fault of TSM which makes them distinctly different from C9 is the agency in which they invest in their head coach. I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase, “let me speak to your manager”. Everyone wants to speak to the highest authority, because there is an understanding that we as human beings want the best possible avenues for a high success rate. Speaking to a high authority gets more assuredness that problems will be resolved and that is only believed because that authority has the ability to do so, with both their resources and knowledge of the entire company. The whole point of a manager, or in this instance, a coach, is for a stopgap of escalation. The head of a company can’t pay attention to every little thing that happens within his company, there’s not enough time in the day, therefore you must delegate responsibility to certain individuals. Reginald has routinely not properly delegated responsibility to his coaches and thus it keeps plaguing TSM. TSM seem to lack an ability to give their coaches agency and the tools to do their job properly, as Reginald is ever present behind them, with the supreme authority that is analogous of a king to a lord. If TSM truly wish to solve the plague of their organization and shy away from their star player having an abundance of power, Reginald must abdicate some responsibilities to his coaching staff and create an infrastructure that breeds success.
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @ggIzento.   Special thanks to: Thorin (Thorin’s Thoughts - Reginald Steps In [2015]): Gamepedia (timeline/history):  

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