After all of the drama and the many losses last season, Team Liquid finished in a miserable ninth place after multiple consecutive LCS titles. When Team Liquid announced former League of Legends commentator Joshua "Jatt" Leesman would be their new head coach, many fans wondered if he'd have the right skills to bring the flailing team back to their former glory.
After a loss to Evil Geniuses in Week 2, Team Liquid is now sitting at 3-1 with a better look than they were able to show during the spring.
WIN.gg spoke with Jatt after the loss to discuss what skills commentators bring to the coaching role, what Liquid has been working on going into the 2020 LCS Summer Split, and how they think they will do against Cloud9 in their first ever Friday Night League match.
How are you feeling [after the EG loss]?
Jatt: It was disappointing to lose our first game. But a 3-1 start is still good.
This was your first loss of the LCSSummer Split. What do you think went wrong this time around?
We have a pretty clear idea of the things that went wrong and that we want to work on. I also don’t want to reveal too much, because it might help the next teams prepare and do well against us.
Seems like you pinpointed the problem pretty quickly.
I think so, yeah.
There's been an overall huge improvement from last season. What do you think has made the biggest difference?
I think it’s hard to say what made the biggest [difference]. A bunch of small things. Overall, the team is really motivated to try and improve after what happened last split. I think our focus on a week to week basis, or in day-to-day scrims, has improved. That’s allowed us to make some steady improvements throughout the five weeks we scrimmed coming up to the Summer Split. Our last week was practice was probably our best yet. So I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with a 4-0, but a 3-1 is still good.
What was your biggest challenge with the team coming into the Summer Split?
I think the biggest challenge was that most of this was done 100% remote for me. Trying to get to know everyone and trying to get good practice systems while fully remote was definitely the hardest thing.
Why is it important to be face to face when coaching?
You’re trying to build up trust with all the players and all the coaches. You’re also trying to get to know them better. That’s so much harder to do in a 10-person Discord channel. There's no off-shoot group chats or little break outs or 1-on-1 chats.
As effective as you can be remote, and you can get a lot done, there’s a reason there’s still offices. There’s a reason work is better in person. There’s too many to list.
You have a background in casting. Do you have any background in coaching?
Not really. I was a pro League of Legends player in 2011 and I coached my high school football team. But that was 15 years ago. So not a huge background in coaching.
How has your casting helped with your role as a coach? Is there anything unique it brings to the table?
I think the things it directly helps with is the ability to convey ideas. I’ve been working on my communication skills through casting for the eight to nine years I’ve done it. If I’m trying to convey a mood or idea after a match, casting helps with that. Presentation-wise, my ability to present has been helped with casting.
Beyond that, casting is a lot of analysis work as well. I’ve been paying extremely close attention to all the meta trends and player tendencies for years. I already know how everyone in this league plays from casting and that’s helped.
Is there more pressure involved with coaching?
Yeah, there’s definitely more pressure in coaching. The fact that you can simplify your success or failure to whether you can win or lose... Casting is more subjective. Who liked you, who didn’t, good cast, bad cast. It's incredibly hard to measure. But coaching is easy to measure.
There are other factors in play, but the pressure isn’t really comparable.
Do you like having that extra pressure?
I think it’s one of those things where some days you like it and some days you don’t. I have a love-hate relationship with the pressure.
What made you decide to take on the coaching role at Team Liquid?
I think coaching is something that had been in the back of my head for a very long time. When I look at traditional sports models, I look at the NBA, and it’s common for commentators to switch between coaching. That hadn’t really happened that much in League of Legends until the last couple years.
In the back of my head, I felt if I was to leave casting and go into coaching it’d have to be a really good situation. And Team Liquid is one. They are one of the best, if not the best, in NA. They have a really good roster. They already have other coaches on the team that I respect greatly. It was a really good opportunity to jump in and checked all the boxes for me to make the jump.
How were you feeling about coming in after their disappointing Spring Split?
It could potentially make a really good story if things turned around. I knew there would be things to work on, I just didn’t know exactly what. But we’re improving every day. I knew all the players were capable and are good. I was hoping that they just needed a slightly better structure and some fixes here and there.
What were the needed improvements that you saw?
Honestly, I’d rather not get too into that. But something we've been working on that's been successful is the energy at practice and the team's overall commitment to improvement. That’s been working well so far.
This Friday, you'll be facing Cloud9. How do you see that going?
I hope it’s a win. I was definitely hoping we would be 4-0 heading into that one. But we need to regroup and we will definitely be ready.
It's our first time playing on Friday night this split. I think it will be really exciting. We see C9 as the defending champions and we won’t have a problem with focus. It's all about just staying focused during that match.