Pro Esports Coach, Chris Lee, And Why You Shouldn’t Do What He Did
Chris Lee, AKA Coach SeeEl, is one of Australia’s top esports coaches, having trained, amongst others, The Chiefs League of Legends team in their 2020 Oceanic Professional League games.
We’ve teamed up with Red Rooster – to have a sit down with SeeEl and discuss what makes a great team and what exactly an esports coach does. Red Rooster is Australia’s first and favourite chicken shop, satisfying all cravings with iconic menu items like the Mega Box, to keep you fuelled and ready for those intense gaming sessions.
Chris, could you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an esports coach? How did you get into it? Was it planned or did you just fall into it?
I don’t know what happened with my career. I was a regular university student, I was coaching the League of Legends team at the collegiate level for fun. I thought I’d like to stream on the internet and teach people how I think the game should be played for free just as a side hobby for fun, because it’s always fun to teach others and it helps you improve your own game as well.
I ended up doing a lot of research on effective coaching methods, like scholarly journals on how recipients best take in feedback for example, and how we can use learning habits from traditional educational platforms like schools, universities, and from lecturers and what they do to create good learning environments as well as to create habits to learn to the best of their ability.
So, long story short, I ended up making a Reddit post about these kinds of influences in traditional education and how you can learn League of Legends in that manner. The guy that made League of Legends, called Tryndamere, Mark Merril, retweeted it on Twitter. I found out about it so then I reached out to him on Twitter for fun and I said, “Would you like to be a coach?” He said, “Yes,” so I ended up doing a live stream in front of 600, 700 people, Coach Tryndamere Live, and then it started off from that.
Then that led to an academy position in a challenger series in Oceania, which is B-league, just below premier league in Australia. I came top three after a disastrous regular split, and then I moved to another team. From there I went straight to the pro league and became top two in the regular season and top three two splits in a row. So, that was my start. It happened from nowhere, but at the beginning of 2019, I made a decision to go all in on this art form and on this career path, and here I am heading to LA.
Could you tell us in general what the day-to-day life of a professional esports coach looks like? What do you do in a regular day?
Sure. It really depends on your role, if you’re a head coach or in management or whatever. It involves getting up early in the morning, having a meeting, then setting up for your practice and then setting up goal plans, as well as long-term goals/objectives that we must reach. All the practice reflects off of that. So it’s pretty simple. The entire morning is just set up and then the rest of the day is about how we can best create prophecies to increase performance in our players.
So pretty much every day you’re coaching and you’re doing those strategies, and putting together those goal plans?
Yeah but I think coaching is so much more. There’s a lot of different types of coaching in esports. There the performance aspect, which takes into consideration things like nutrition. The United States is far, far ahead of us in that area. Same for areas like Europe, because obviously there’s a greater amount of capital there. In other countries you have performance coaches, you have assistant coaches, you have traditional and strategic coaches, and you have the head coach and the assistant coach who cover a lot of those areas.
For me, personally, I was in Australia with the Chiefs where I was working as the general manager as well as head coach. So that was a lot more responsibility. It meant I was doing some accounting and it also meant I was focusing on things like nutrition out of my own time. But, generally speaking it is very role-specific and I think one of my strengths is just being able to do a little bit of everything.
So it really is like any other professional sport in that you’ve got to look after the whole body and mind and everything like that in order to perform your best.
Absolutely. When I was in The Chiefs I was very new to coaching as well and I can’t say I did the best job this year. But a lot of the more experienced coaches that were a little better than me were paying attention to things like performance indicators. They were paying attention to sleep schedules, they were paying attention to the environment and when they should be sleeping and stuff.
I’m not going to lie and say I did that perfectly. We had some late nights, we over practiced a lot and my players suffered burnout. I went through burnout myself at one point in my career, but you take those lessons and you go from there. It really is like traditional sports. You need rest periods, you need a personal life, you need to separate the athlete and the person and you need to have these clear performance indicators as well as chasing goals.
What is it about League of Legends in particular that made the game so appealing to you and want to coach it in a professional capacity?
So I wasn’t always a big gamer. I played video games growing up, for sure, but it wasn’t like I had the perfect environment to play video games. My parents were always against it. So I don’t know if it’s linked to that in particular, but the thing that makes this game incredible is just the level of competition and the structure that exists and the performance and the professional scene, especially overseas. As well as that, the game is very complex and I always have enjoyed things to do with analysis. I studied finance and economics when I was in university and that was one of the things that I was really into.
What sets the top teams apart? What makes them so good?
Well, it depends on the region to be completely honest with you. When it comes to top teams it just comes down to how good your players are. In Australia, the lack of coaching infrastructure and the lack of knowledge and expertise in the space means that we are still in our infancy. League of Legends has been around for 10 years, but if you compare it to traditional sports, the game is constantly evolving. Considering how long people have been actually working professionally at a higher level, it hasn’t been that long. So although it’s rapidly evolving, a lot of the differences between a top team and a bottom team in a region like Oceania has to do with the players.
Now, when it comes to overseas it’s a multitude of things. It’s got to do with the players’ performance, coaching staff, management. I truly believe the championship team creates championship players and creates championship mentality. My players are incredibly intelligent, very talented, and that’s where it comes from. Imagine you’re playing collegiate football and you have Ronaldo or Messi in your team, that team is just going to be good. So some players with championship mindsets create championship teams.
Where do you think the future of esports is headed in Australia? Is it going to go in that American direction, become much more professionalized?
Yes. The biggest difference is the population and the interest from the general public and how marketable esports really is, because you have to be realistic. You have 24 million, 25 million people in Australia. The United States alone has 355 million. Japan as 126.5 million people. South Korea has 65 million people. There’s a severe lack in people and therefore there’s a severe lack in capital interest, because there’s less money to be made. But because esports is growing, anyone that says esports is going to disappear is going to be left in the dust in another 10 year’s time. Esport can only keep growing and it’s shown that through its successes from a business perspective as a spectator sport. In Australia, things will grow and infrastructure will develop, but it’s always going to be the difference between the NBA and the NBL. It is what it is.
In terms of your own career, do you think that you’ll be staying with League of Legends?
My philosophy with life is really simple: whatever you do, give absolutely everything that you have, work with passion, and try to be a good person. So while I am in esports and while I’m coaching, I am 100% dedicated to my art form and bring the best that I can be and being the best in the world. That’s my goal.
I have a lot of other interests, which I think are important to separate the person and the athlete, but I will be continuing to grow in this space and I will be outperforming other people in this space. That will be inevitable because I will work harder.
Can you tell us some interesting things about esports that outsiders might not know?
Well, this industry is not just fun and games. People need to know that it sounds like a dream job, but it’s actually incredibly stressful and there’s a lot of pressure. It’s not as simple as playing a video game. It’s your career. Football players probably still enjoy playing football, basketball players that play professionally probably still enjoy playing basketball, but once you become a professional esports player, it’s not the same. People should know that and respect athletes in our space a little bit more because it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to get where we get to.
The other thing is that there are over 100 million players that play this video game. Over 100. They say that one in three or one in four people in South Korea play video games. As the world becomes more digital, I think it’s the same concept as the internet. People thought that the internet was just going to be another thing that makes their lives easier, but it’s changed the scope of the world. Esports is just one aspect of that. Cryptocurrency is the same thing. A lot of these industries that are coming up people don’t understand yet but they will. Just look at the numbers.
Another interesting point is that in esports, the game actually changes quite often. So unlike traditional sports, you have to keep learning the game because the rules change all the time. New champions, new positions come out, new things come out all the time. I think that’s incredible.
What advice or guidance would you give for someone who wanted to turn their passion into their professional business, and wanted to get into esports in a professional capacity?
Definitely don’t do what I did. What I did was very irresponsible and stupid for multiple reasons. Remember to look after yourself as a human being.
The nature of competition is that you do something that someone else doesn’t want to do. That is a reality of every kind of competitive genre out there. So you need to be doing something that the guy next to you that wants to also make it into the industry isn’t doing. That is your goal.
The biggest thing is that you won’t get into the industry by just having heart and not putting the hard work in. It’s a lot grittier and harder and competitive than you can imagine. If you truly want to be good, you have to love the game and love what you do, but more importantly, you have to be willing to accept the sacrifices and the hard work. Do something that is not just playing the video games 15 hours a day, because that isn’t going to make you the best, that isn’t going to make you in this industry. What’s going to make you in this industry is doing the things that are considered boring. For example, analysis review, taking time to actually go to other people and learn. Don’t work blindly, but work smart.
Any last thoughts?
I really wish that companies out there, venture capital businesses, people in all different sports, as well in all different genres and all different aspects of life would support esports. Please support our players in Australia and New Zealand. They’re fantastic sporting countries and we need to be adapting and we need to be changing our general mentality and realize that esports is here to stay.
Support this industry and support us because we’re going out there to try and make Australia proud. That’s what I’m doing. I know a lot of the other athletes out there are doing the same thing.
Red Rooster is Australia’s first and favourite chicken shop, satisfying all cravings with iconic menu items like the Mega Box. We’ve teamed up with them to keep you fuelled and ready for those intense gaming sessions. The Rooster’s Calling.
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