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League of Legends
Interview > MOBA > League of Legends
World

Evil Geniuses coach Artemis: “It’s really easy to get caught up in short term performance”

After their first game against 100 Thieves, GINX TV speaks with Evil Geniuses’ strategic coach Connor “Artemis” Doyle about player burnout and his goals for the team.
Connor “Artemis” Doyle began his esports career as a player, starting out in the bot lane as AD Carry at Columbia College in 2016. From there, he played support on multiple teams before jumping into a coaching role with amateur team AZIO White in 2018. By the end of the year, he was Clutch Gaming’s Academy head coach.

After moving up to Clutch’s main roster in the LCS, he stayed with the team when they rebranded to Dignitas, until it was announced he’d move to Evil Geniuses at the end of 2019.

After their first game of the Spring Split where they lost against 100 Thieves, we spoke with Artemis about the match and the team’s goals for the 2021 season. 

artemis_main_new
Artemis joined Evil Geniuses in 2019 (Picture: Riot Games) 

This game against 100 Thieves was pretty close; how are you feeling coming into the first week of Spring Split after the slightly more relaxed atmosphere of Lock In last week?

Well, I really liked Lock In. I think it's one of the single best changes that LCS has made to competitive format in a long time. After they removed best-of-threes, we weren't really getting much from a competitive standpoint when it came to scheduling, but Lock In was fantastic. 

It was just so nice to play a best-of series before the season starts, we got to play many of the teams, scrim many of the teams, so overall a really good kickoff to LCS. I think it also helped relieve some of the jitters that you can sometimes have of week one, day one of LCS. I know for me and some of the guys I talked to about it, there was less of that because we had already played Lock In; we'd already played in the semi final best-of-five against Team Liquid.

I think the worst was kind of already over going into this weekend, which allows us to focus more easily on our games in week one. I guess thinking about today, I think there were some positive takeaways from our game despite the loss. Our moods aren't too down after that. I think everybody here understands that it's not about where you start, it's where you finish. Nobody's going to care that you lose to 100 Thieves on day one if you win the finals after the 45 games that we have to play in the split. 

We really weren't too bummed about the result. I think for us, it was very clear where we need to improve this game. I think that our neutral control of this game was very, very bad. How we played on dragon at certain times. Then in the mid to late game phase, I thought how we played around mid wave was really poor and how we played around the neutral objectives in the late game needed to be improved a lot. 

I think it's a good thing that we're able to clearly see what went wrong today and it gives us a target goal and practice. This can happen sometimes at the beginning of the season where you have players with strong ideas, how to play the game and you don't really get to practice a lot of these situations in scrims. It's so rare that you get a scrim where there's Baron and Elder [drake] both on the map. The games swing a bit more.

I'm grateful that we're able to practice some of these game situations on stage today. And I'm also grateful that we have a really nice template to learn from going into the rest of our games this weekend, because I thought our early game was quite good. I don't think Closer pathed particularly well, and I think that that made the early game easier than it should have for us, but overall I was pleased. I think our mid fight game needs to be worked, but [I’m] confident we can figure that out.

 

You’ve said recently that the focus for the team was on improvement and learning how to keep everything going through the long season. Could you elaborate more about why this is so important?

Yeah, sure. The biggest thing is that spring and summer are now combined where despite there being a break for MSI in between spring and summer, the wins that you will [accrue] in spring matter when it comes to seeding for final playoffs, when it comes to making a World Championship. So every game is important now, which is nice because it gives some meaning to the game; to the spring split. But ultimately it's not about your standings other than if you can get first or second, if you get a first round buy, like that can be effective. I think first seed definitely has an advantage when it comes to making Worlds. But it's more about where you are after these 45 games and how well you're positioned to win a best-of-five against a good team that's been playing all year too.

I think it's really easy to get caught up in short term performance. One of the worst things you can do is look at your standings during the regular season, especially the beginning of the earlier season, because it truly doesn't matter. There's a lot of narratives flying around about the standings and power rankings and who's good and who's not, but the most important thing is you insulate yourself from that and you take something away from every game whether it's big or small. 

Like I said, I was grateful for the game today because I felt like the takeaways were very clear in it. After the game, it was very, very productive, where we were able to sit down and talk about what went wrong and why it went wrong and [have a] game plan for how we're going to approach it differently next time.

I think we handled today's loss much better than we handled losses in Lock In, and one of the things I told my guys early on in Lock In was, "Okay, we lost, it sucks, but it's not going to be the last time, you know? I hate to break it to you, but it's part of being a pro player. It's part of what it means to be professional. It’s losing games and it's learning how to lose. It's learning how to learn from these losses in a productive way." 

I think we're getting better at that, which bodes well. It's definitely a skill to learn from wins and losses.I think both of them are important in their own way, and taking things away from stage matches is so important because it's just a different animal than scrims.

Oftentimes, the way learning works is you identify things in practice that you're looking to change. Then the players start to recognise that themselves in game; they'll still keep making mistakes, but they'll start to see it. You build the awareness and then you get to the point where you're starting to correct that in scrims, and you're seeing the mistake before it happens. You're making the right decision, but it's not really fully solidified until you get to stage, and then you implement what you've been working on in scrims and you see it working for yourself on stage, and then it's kind of concrete and that's really committed to memory. You can kind of move on as a team at a new level. 

So right now, for us, we're not quite at the end stage there where it's very clear to us where we're making mistakes. It's just about making that final step and being able to apply what we're learning in a different environment, because--especially in the game today — we don't get games quite like this in scrims as often as I would like.

 

Now everyone's playing three games a week, does this worry you in any way? Do you think that with the schedule that the players keep plus the extra games, that there might be issues later on in the season, maybe with burnout?

Yeah, burnout's always an issue, right? Let's be clear. I think that every team and every player will struggle with burnout in their own way. I know that Hans Sama gave a great interview this past week where he talked about his own personal journey with burnout, and how he was able to recognise it as it was happening and what he was able to do to prevent it and also recover from it. 

There's two types of burnout, right? There's the one where you're truly burnt out and you have just been giving everything you can in practice and everything in your life is good and your foundations are there, and you're just burnt out and you just need a break and you'll recover. But there's also mental burnouts where maybe you're not truly physically fatigued and maybe things in your life… like the foundations aren't quite there.

You can find yourself in a rut that can be more difficult for players to come out of. So I think that every team is going to encounter that this year, but I don't think it's necessarily going to be different than any other year. We're big on load management with our guys, and we understand the performance sciences around burnout very well. So I'm not too worried about that as far as the three game season, but I am more worried about the short practice week. 

Maybe "worried" is too strong, but I find myself disliking a three-day practice week and a three-day weekend of games because three scrim days just doesn't really feel like enough to truly feel prepared for the weekend. Maybe that will change. This is only our first week of the new schedule, but three days of practice, three days of games and then one day off, and then three days of practice.

A lot of this is pattern recognition; League of Legends is almost all about pattern recognition and consecutive days of practice, repetition, repetition, repetition. It really means a lot. I'm finding that we have slightly less of that because of the new schedule. 

I think it will make coaching more challenging. I think it might make it more challenging to improve because just by nature of the schedule, but it remains to be seen, like I said, this is only week one, day one. I've only experienced one week of practice. So maybe I'll feel differently after a few weeks, but that's kind of like my gut first impressions of the new schedule.

 

I know your general goals are probably going to be the obvious stuff: win the split, get enough points to go to Worlds. But do you have any other set goals that you have for Evil Geniuses besides those?

I think process goals are super important and it's easy for teams, coaches and players to have personal achievement goals, where it's like as a coach, maybe I want to win an NA title. That's great; as a team, maybe we want to win LCS, which we do, as many teams will say. I think it's a little more true for our guys than the rest. 

I will give them some credit there. We have a lot of players who have tasted victory before it and want it again, and then we have a couple of players who are on the other end of the spectrum. Our guys want to win and they want to win so bad. I think one of the coolest things about working for Evil Geniuses is how fiercely we want to win.

Everybody here wants it so bad. We're so focused on it; just improving after every loss. It's what we're all about here at EG, but I think sometimes what's more important than these achievement goals are process goals, and it's important that we set them for ourselves and it's important that we help our players set them for themselves too. It's not enough to say like, I want to be a better player, but it is enough to say like, I want to approach scrims in this way every day, and this is what I'm going to do in my pre-game before scrims. This is what I'm going to do with my post game. This is how I want to act. So one of the things I've focused on and we try and focus on is helping our guys build good habits because that's what sustains you in practice.

That's also what comes out on stage, and high pressure moments in a stage game, you're going to fall back on the habits and your habits are going to come from how you practice. So in addition to winning, like every team does, I think for me, for us, I want to be a team that is the best at learning; learning from each other and learning from the games and from the losses. 

I feel pretty fortunate to have such a smart group of guys around me. It's really fun coming to work every day and working with five driven, intelligent players and three driven, intelligent coaches. So we just have a lot of talent here and a lot of people who are so smart and so driven, and for us, it's all about optimising that and figuring out what habits that we can build as a staff that are going to make us more effective and ultimately make us more effective as a team.

That's kind of what we try and focus on because it's easy to, I think, get caught up in these achievement goals. Of course we'd be lying if we said we don't think about winning LCS and that isn't a goal, but we have to try and keep it more short-term and we have to keep it focused on behaviour and what we can actually do on a day to day, minute to minute basis versus what we hope to achieve. Because that's what's important and that's how you actually see change.

LCS Week 2 of the Spring Split starts on Friday 12th February.