Weldon Green’s journey with TSM was an exciting one. Under his guidance, North America’s number one team had the most dominant Summer Split in NA LCS history. But their triumph did not last long, and Worlds was yet another big obstacle that TSM could not overcome. BreakTheGame’s Natsu talked to Weldon about his time on TSM, his views on coaching and his plans moving forward.
Natsu: You mentioned in a recent video on your channel that because of you living in Finland, being a long-term coach for TSM was something you wouldn’t be able to do. If you lived in the California full time, would you have stayed on TSM? And is long-term coaching something you are interested in going into the future?
Weldon: Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have stayed. As for long-term coaching, it’s not something I am interested in. I am also not interested in elite sports in the slightest. I would say I’m good at it but it’s not my passion. Amateur level sports are my passion. I can’t coach every single amateur athlete in the world so I have to produce coaches. So in that sense, coach training is what interests me. I don’t like waiting around to get hired. I just wanna do it so I’m more or less an entrepreneur. Personally, I don’t enjoy working for other people as much as I enjoy partnerships. The reason TSM worked for me was because Reginald is an amazing person and we had a partnership. Both of us wanted the same thing. Winning Worlds was the goal for us and we tried to make it happen. The next team I’ll be working with is also a great partnership for me and we will try to make awesome stuff happen together.
N: How was your time on TSM? How enjoyable was it for you?
W: It was intensely enjoyable and incredible in every way!
N: How do you keep your players from tilting? What methods do you use to keep them focused on the game or is that something entirely up to them?
W: Tilt is a very subjective term and everyone has different definitions for it. It depends on what environment the tilt is happening in. When it comes to tilting on-stage in a competitive match, you have to apply pressure to the player in the training environment equivalent to a competitive match. That way when the pressure of the competitive match comes they are able to cope with it. It’s not possible to get rid of competitive pressure. You have to train people to cope with it and that’s why veterans often do better than amateurs. They have more experience learning how to handle pressure situations. I think I am good at teaching players how to handle pressure. A good example I can give is Biofrost. We were able to apply massive amounts of pressure onto him in training and when he went on stage he had an easier time dealing with it. As for tilt outside of competitive matches, I haven’t really encountered a player like that. I don’t think those kinds of people have a place on a pro team. If it was up to me and I stumbled upon such a person, I would possibly bench him for someone that doesn’t have that kind of problem. I would then confront him one on one about it. After that I’ll do it with the team. We’ll try to figure out the problem, whether it’s not liking a teammate or girlfriend troubles. If it’s something along those lines then we’ll help the player with it. If it’s not anything like that and the person tilts just because that’s how he is, then he’s not the right person for the job. Nowadays you can’t become a pro player with that mindset so there’s fewer and fewer of them that exist.
N: What is the best mentality a player can have in your opinion? If you could take one person and implant a certain mindset towards the game into his head, what would that mindset be like?
W: Mastery and implicit learning. They should be able to play all the time in flow state, they don’t think about what they’re learning and they’re always trying to optimize their game and achieve mastery. That’s the perfect mindset for me. There’s mastery orientation and competitive orientation. So mastery orientation is like “I want to get better than I was this morning” and a competitive orientation is “I want to beat the person I’m playing against”. The other ones are implicit learning and explicit learning. Being in flow state and learning automatically is implicit learning. And explicit learning is having a system of goals and a training regime that you follow. Implicit learning where things happen automatically and pursuing mastery is the perfect mindset for me. If a player has that mindset then I can teach them explicit learning to double their speed. Hauntzer is an implicit learner and he learns automatically and never puts thought into it. Then I came along and I tried to train him for three months in explicit learning and systems. Before you know it, he gained even more control over his growth rate.
N: When I spoke to KC in a previous interview, he told me that Bjergsen is the player he enjoyed working with the most. What about you? Do you have anyone you enjoyed working with the most on TSM?
W: So I’m going to just give my reasoning for why I loved working with all of them. Doublelift is at a point as a person where he easily admits his own faults and I loved that about him. I learned a lot from his example. And he escorted me through the Los Angeles food scene *laughs*. For Bjergsen it’s because he’s a master at explicit learning. Svenskeren was fun to work with because who he is as a person and who he’s perceived to be by the community is very different. It was really cool to get to know him. He’s just like the nicest and most genuine guy you’ve ever met. Hauntzer was great to work with because it feels to me like he can be the best player in the world. And as for Biofrost, he’s basically how I envision future rookies. They’re not gonna be really young. Instead they’ll come at around age 19 or 20 and they’ll have some college under their belt. They will also have experience in the college and challenger scenes. The closer we get to 26, the closer we’ll get to people like Biofrost coming in as rookies, performing well and qualifying for Worlds in their first split. He’s the first one in a new generation of rookies. You just can’t come in as a 17 year old with no competitive skills and expect to do well right off the bat. So it’s easier to pick up an older player that might not have much competitive experience but has the necessary life skills and training skills.
N: KC also mentioned that Bjergsen is very open to advice and his work ethic is great. Would you agree with that statement? How would you improve someone’s ability to receive feedback and improve upon his work ethic?
W: I have a different view on this. I think every single pro is open to feedback that improves their progress. To me it’s the opposite, players are teaching coaches how to improve their feedback because when something doesn’t work, the players just tells them it’s not the right thing to do and they simply don’t do it. Then it’s up to the coach to prove that it actually does work which is hard sometimes. Or to stop doing it because it doesn’t work and does not improve performance. It’s very challenging because a lot of the things coaches consider as good methods to improve performance don’t actually work that well long-term or short-term. There were other teams that tried the whole “bonding experience” and they lost to us. Did they improve their performance? Maybe they did but it wasn’t enough for them to beat TSM. And we didn’t improve our performance enough to beat Korea. I have only ever worked with pro players that are receptive to feedback. Maybe it’s because a lot of the feedback I give is grounded in direct improvement or maybe it’s because I’m older. I always strive to find out when somebody doesn’t listen to something, if it’s not working and why that is. And then I try to improve upon the thing that I’m doing until it does work. And then when it works people will do it because they wanna win. Everyone does and that’s why they are professional players.
N: Is the gap between Korea and the rest of the world closing? And if so, why?
W: Of course. It’s because I’m coaching now *laughs*. The gap is that Korea trains much more than other regions. In North America I had TSM train twice as much as any other team in the league. If other teams want to win, they will follow the example TSM set in 2016. No team is gonna beat Korea without working just as much as them or more. They’ve been training twice as much than other regions for years. So the West will have to train twice as much for years to catch-up.
N: Do you consider yourself a good coach? I’ve seen comments along the lines of “This Weldon guy is so full of himself, he’s so overrated” and I just wanna get your take on that. How would you respond to those comments?
W: In terms of the West I consider myself, Parth, Zikz, Pr0lly and Reapered the best coaches. I’ve worked with Zikz and Parth before. I’ve talked to Pr0lly and had conferences with him before. I’ve scrimmed against Reapered for an entire split and talked with him about coaching. As for all of the other coaches, I beat them all or they lost to Pr0lly and G2’s Youngbuck *laughs*. My belief is that performance rests on the coach. The player’s job is to get better every day and to play the game the correct way. But it’s a team game and the strategic direction of a team is up to the coach or the person that is applying that direction in the training environment. So if a team performs well they have a good coach and if they don’t then their coach isn’t good. Sometimes they can perform well if they are really good players. That’s very rare nowadays and the most recent example would be Origen in 2015. But you saw the long-term effects of having no coach in 2016 when Origen went downhill. It’s pretty much like Formula 1. The driver could pull over at the pit stop, get out of his car, change his tires as well as his gasoline and then drive away. But he would lose to all of the other Formula 1 drivers that have a staff doing all of that. Because he spends too much time doing things he does not specialize in, where as the person specializing in changing tires is getting better at doing it every day. So if a player tries to control his strategic direction and train at the same time, he won’t be able to do it very long. Coaches are like players and there’s good ones and bad ones. Teams are now realizing this and treating coaches as talents. You can see how Riot is making coaches unpoachable.
N: Obviously TSM failed at Worlds. What do you think went wrong, and how much of it was your fault, in your opinion?
W: All of it. Everything that went wrong has to do with coaching preparation. If I had a time machine and I could go back to the time right before Worlds, I could train all the things that went wrong there out of the players. But I couldn’t predict those were going to fail so I lost to better coaches that knew those things would go wrong.
N: What can we expect out of Weldon in 2017?
W: Winning Worlds with a team! *laughs*
N: Any predictions for the EU and NA LCS in 2017?
W: For NA, I think TSM, CLG and C9 will remain as the top teams in the Spring Split. I think Immortals will do well in the regular split but will fail in the playoffs again. I predict them and Team Liquid to stay cursed *laughs*. For Europe I can’t say anything at the moment.
N: Any last words or shoutouts?
W: Thank you Doublelift for the smoothies! Keep doing well TSM! Follow their YouTube channel for their new adventures. I just wanted to call them out.
N: What happens if you face TSM with your new team? Will you show any mercy?
W: None. I will win! *laughs*