League of Legends professional scene has come a long way since its humble inception. Roughly six years have passed, and it's clear that no one would've ever thought that, eventually, LoL events would be able to take place in fully packed stadiums across the world. The future is now, and to discredit those who think that all the excitement will die down as soon as the "next big thing" comes out I take a look at how the infrastructure has evolved and why it's a sign that LoL won't stop growing for more years to come.
Coaches recognition and their volatility
Even though it seems like ages ago, the first time a head coach actually stepped on LCS stage alongside his players happened in the beginning of 2015. By that time, although the profile was officially recognized by Riot Games, I remember the general consensus being that the position was meant for lesser players that were not (or not anymore) up to par with the mechanical standard set for professional play. They needed to smooth out the pick & ban phase by facilitating the dialogue between the players to a certain extent. But anything else that went beyond that task was not clear, at all.
Take William "scarra" Li's stint with CLG as an example, or even Choi "Locodoco" Yoon-sub's year with TSM. They were two very smart players put in the shoes of head coaches without (obviously) any previous experience. This career path was only at its beginning back then, which is why the volatility of the position was through the roof. It was a hit or miss gig in 2015, and whenever a team started to underperform coaches were the first to get replaced.
2015 was the year of imports for the western teams. All their money was being thrown into building the better roster possible in terms of raw skill while neglecting everything that needed to surround said players. Analysts were too few and mostly working remotely, general managers weren't even considered, and thus a coach was stuck in a job with an ambiguous description with little to no chance to succeed.
The lucky few
It is thanks to the success of a few individuals that it's now deemed that the infrastructure is at least as important as the players. Among them there's definitely Louis "Deilor" Sevilla due to his heroic Worlds run with Fnatic and Chris "Blurred Limes" Ehrenreich that turned around CLG's 2015 season in a 3-month period.
Albeit them being the front-men of some really important milestones we must not forget the people that helped them from the beginning. I'm talking about Oliver "IzPAH" Steer and his role of general manager at Fnatic and the ever present (and often forgotten) Tony "Zikzlol" Gray acting as CLG's strategic coach.
Trusting the process
As of now, I think we've all come to terms that a top team with five koreans will always prevail against a team composed by three regional players and two imports. So instead of trying to match them skill-wise (an easier than ever task given the steadily growing playerbase), the western teams seem finally ready to invest into facilities, staff, and the well being of their players.
Owners now emphasize the need of a multi-year process to achieve noteworthy goals. A trait of traditional sports' teams that shows the maturity of the esports industry as a whole and most specifically League of Legend's. Unless you're the Philadelphia 76ers (I've given up on them, I'm sorry), nothing bad can really come out of a slow and meticulous building process. In order to reach the top you must secure a synergistic group of people that are committed to your cause and only then you can talk about contracts with the players.
That's why I admire some of the brands that have already picked up this philosophy. There's H2K's Neil "pr0lly" Hammad entering his third year of contract up there. UOL's Fabian"Sheepy" Mallant has been with them since the team was created, too. And in no particular order of preference I'll also throw in the basket teams like CLG, TSM, and even Giants. Now think for a minute at what all these organizations have achieved. Aren't they among the more improving teams in the west?
Post: League of Coaches: Analyzing the Maturity of the Scene