In Focus: Team Liquid & The Exposed Elephant In The Room

In response to the Team Liquid | Breaking Point documentary, I felt it was our obligated duty to breakdown the video and highlight problems shown on camera and off camera. To begin this post, I would like to sincerely encourage every prospect leader, back-end support staff, and player to watch this video.

It's a crucial reminder that we are far from where we need to be in this industry for us to emphatically progress. We are simply not ready for the big leagues. Money and viewership are the biggest smokes and mirrors by far. Keep that in mind as you read on.


Team Liquid aren't the only sufferers of Breaking Point's objective focus

The HTC eSports documentary focuses on Team Liquid, one of North America's most established organizations with a top-down infrastructure, world class support structure, and venture backing that will keep Team Liquid operational for years to come. The context of the video showcases the fundamental and systematical flaws that plague a large amount of organizations and talent, even Team Liquid, something that many wouldn't have imagined with the amount of collective experiences running the organization's day to day operations.

We here at eSportsRDA focus on offering services to growing organizations to focus on weeding out problems before they truly damage the rank and file and the organization structure. Through infrastructure development, proper hierarchic authorities and general policy creation that acts as a foundation for everyone. It sets a precedent and keeps the well oiled machine running for the longevity of its lifetime. We do it to avoid having the next Team Liquid, an amazing brand, organization, but one that shouldn't have these problems at their current stage.

Objectively speaking, calling Team Liquid out is as fair as it'll get. However, I can place professional organizations in each of my finger tips and then some. They aren't the first to suffer from this set of problems and they certainly won't be the last. However, we need to use this opportunity to remind everyone in the industry to refocus our priorities to ensure proper leadership is in place, proper chain of commands are implemented, and proper support is given to players beyond teaching them how to play.

Winning isn't the most important thing. Financing isn't the most important thing. It's handling grassroots development for a more sustainable and ethical industry. If we at the end of the day care more about winning rather than the health of our organization and players than we aren't ready to blow into an industry that has captured the eyes and ears of the world. We don't deserve it.

Period.

I have dealt with teams who have problem star players, problem support staff, lack of internal leadership or general lack of staff to manage player concerns and agendas. I personally will continue to support our business model of affordable pricing for all because lets face it, not every organization can afford to hire full-time support staff, managers, coaches, analysts or sports psychologists. Not everyone operating a player-run or owner-run organization have the experience to develop internal procedures that are delegated, enforced, and created to cover their operational foundation.

For organizations who do have ventured-backed funding, we get to witness the luxury of this that and the third, but they suffer from the same problems. Why is that? I wish I could give you a simple answer, but the complexities change dynamically which require some serious looking into. Which is why I look at infrastructure development as the key focus as most organizations who have been around for the last decade + have theirs fully developed.

We look at Cloud9, compLexity and TSM, they aren't without fault, but having spoken to managers and support staff there numerous times. I can tell you these are your candles in the dark. Look to them as industry leaders from an organizational point-of-view. Renown for their management style and internal leadership development, this is what Team Liquid needs to focus on or they will continue to suffer for it. Everything affects everything.

For context, let's break down some of the more prevalent issues found within the documentary.

Locodoco isn't a leader, yet

Locodoco is seen as this introverted wild-child of a coach. Always known for his antics, his distinct personality shown to the outside world and a different one shown to the inside world of eSports. It's very clear Locodoco is an amazing coach who understands game mechanics, macro plays, and team building concepts, but he is not a leader or the right one to implement these changes, not yet at least.

A head coach is someone who can remain unbiased, who can keep a team together through non-divisive tactics and behavior that encourages people to band together, not tearing them apart. We see numerous times in the video where he attempts to calm people down and keep them from sinking further into their negative slope however he does more harm than good.

He angers some players because their personality conflicts with each other. One feels like his opinion needs to be voiced regardless of how it is said. One feels like he needs to stop opinions from being voiced in a negative tone, but the way that is done is too passive-aggressive and allows the other to completely null and void his ability to remain in-charge of the narrative.

We all love Locodoco but he isn't a leader and probably will never be the leader Team Liquid needs. Steve Arhancet, Team Liquid Co-CEO pulled Locodoco aside and spoke to him about his leadership abilities. A right thing to do. A leader must always step in and handle internal conflicts, to show the team that he is in-charge and will make things right. In this case he's teaching Locodoco a life lesson and helping evolve his leadership role to ensure it doesn't happen again.

More of those sessions need to happen and someone needs to be brought in to teach him leadership as much as possible, because at the end of the day being a leader can't be truly taught. You need to have a natural cadence, fierce but fair treatment to all, and the natural ability to be the soothsayer of the rank and file to discourage or dissolve brewing conflicts between members.

Star players are given too much leeway

Time and time again star players get away with so much that other team mates wouldn't be able to. Sometimes it's because star players are the face of the brand, they have a better relationship with the owners, coaches, which lead to them to field unconscious bias and favoritism. Others see this and it causes a myriad of negative emotions to spring up such as jealousy, rage, demotivation and fear. It distracts them from what's most important, playing the game effectively.

Time and time again star players get away with so much that other teammates wouldn't be able to. Sometimes it's because star players are the face of the brand, they have a better relationship with the owners, coaches, which lead to them to field unconscious bias and favoritism. Others see this and it causes a myriad of negative emotions to spring up such as jealousy, rage, demotivation and fear. It distracts them from what's most important, playing the game effectively.

You also see cases where star players are preferred over head coaches. Where star players voice their concern and say "we want this player", or "I want to play this side and nothing else" with coaches and analysts having to listen and agree even if its against their professional duty in fear of retaliation from their superior or the star players themselves. Organizations go to the extend of just dealing with problematic star players because they're so good they don't care how malicious they may be, they just want results and they don't care about the ramifications of it.

Managers and coaches need to be given leeway. Their authority is their biggest weapons. People need to respect their authority, the hierarchy installed by the organization, but as I mentioned earlier their lack of training or lack of ability will be a double-edge sword if he or she is given the power which he or she cannot handle. It's like giving super powers to a random person who, turns out, can't handle the power, consuming them causing them to turn into a villain.

Ya' know, stuff like that.

eSports athletes need team leaders and support staff to manage their internal growth

There's an infrastructure agenda, we have in mind here when developing foundations. We create them, but we appoint roles for everything. To ensure everyone is pulling their weight and ready to grow into another position if need be. That dynamic meta of leadership allows for a free form and organic infrastructure from the bottom-up player perspective. It helps breed leadership by current experienced leadership, so they learn and grow as they continue their careers eventually moving on to leadership roles within the organization or others.

We look at Reginald from TSM. A player-owner turned back-end CEO. At the beginning he was a player-owner which was and still is one of the hardest gauntlets to get through in of itself. However, he had advisors to help him on his journey, eventually taking a back-end role focusing on the growth of the business and the brand of TSM. To this day TSM has its own set of problems, but his experience and tangible assistance has molded the players into leaders and prolific players who are ready for the challenges that emerge internally and externally. No one is safe from sin. We all have our skeletons in the closet and no one is perfect. We all have our moments and in a perfect world, everything is run without issue or delay but unfortunately we live in a far from perfect world.

Every organization faces problems, but how they face those problems will be the testament of our time. We must remember that when criticizing.

Sports psychologists are great, I believe we still need the science to back up claims and help mentally and physically fortify players for an entire lifestyle change once they pack their bags and enter a team gaming house thousands of miles away from family, friends, and their old lifestyle. What professional and even semi-professional players do to become the best make my jaw drop. An anguishing and grueling process that is akin to nothing else. We need sports psychologists more than ever however, in my strong professional opinion, eSports leaders need to create internal mentorship programs to teach them the ropes inside out. Developing leadership within teams, support staff, which absolutely affects everything else.

We look at Korea. A region notorious for breeding eSports legends from Starcraft to League of Legends. Their culture, their infrastructures, their whole outlook on eSports are amplified whereas in the western regions people still see eSports as a glorified hobby. Where players join teams just to make a salary, focusing on their personal brands before the team's agenda. We look at Kk0ma, a coach who has helped SKT1 win 3 World Championships. 3 out of 6 held so far.

They treat each other with respect. They are an extended family. They play to win and they do whatever it takes. If that means playing scrims all day and focusing on other things instead of streaming or going out drinking every night they will without question. They listen to Kk0ma and look up to him as a father figure, they don't undermine his authority and don't pull their stardom as a justifiable excuse for poor performances and deflections to other players.

Righting their wrongs

It takes a lot of balls to put your organization under the limelight. To be put out on a pedestal to showcase your flaws for the world of eSports to see. As harsh as I criticize them and every other organization who aren't doing enough, I applaud them for taking the initiative for righting their wrongs. Whether punishing players and setting precedents, going out of their way to apologize for actions of internal staff, or admitting that there is in fact of big problem.

Team Liquid is on the road to redemption and they will be the first to bear the fruit of success because of that. As new challenges emerge, they will be ready to conquer them once all is said and done. More organizations should be transparent about their problems to maybe scout out new talent to assist them or show the world of aspiring players and talent "look, we're not perfect either!" First step to fixing a problem is by admitting there is one.

I wish Team Liquid the best of the luck!


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