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.
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 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.
It happened suddenly out of nowhere, at the beginning of 2019, and, going into 2020, I decided to go all-in on this art form and this career path. Here I am after one year, headed to LA to coach the Golden Guardians.
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 e-sports. 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. A lot of the more experienced coaches 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?
While I wasn’t always a big gamer, I did play video games growing up but it wasn’t like I was allowed to play video games a lot. My parents were always against it. I always wanted to try things I wasn’t allowed to do growing up. Other than that, 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. Also, 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 things like pattern recognition and analysis 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 honest. When it comes to the top teams in our region, 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 the infancy of player development. League of Legends has been around for 10 years, but if you compare it to traditional sports, the game is extremely new and constantly evolving. Considering how long people have been working professionally at a higher level, it hasn’t been that long at all. 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 player’s individual talent.
Now, when it comes to overseas it’s a multitude of things. It’s got to do with the players’ performance, coaching staff, as well as management. I truly believe the championship team creates championship players and creates championship mentality. My players are were incredibly intelligent and very talented this year, so we performed well. Imagine you’re playing collegiate football and you have Ronaldo or Messi in your team, that team is just going to be good. Players with championship mindsets create championship teams – and player skill is far more important in OCE than it is overseas.
Where do you think the future of e-sports 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 e-sports really is, because you have to be realistic. You have 25 million people in Australia. The United States alone has 355 million, Japan has 126 million, South Korea has 65 million people. There’s a severe lack in people here and therefore there’s a severe lack of capital interest, because there’s less money to be made. But because e-sports is growing, anyone that says e-sports is going to disappear is going to be left in the dust in another 10 year’s time. E-sport 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?
Yes, I will be. My philosophy with life is 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 e-sports and while I’m coaching, I am 100% dedicated to my art form and will thrive to be the best that I can be in order to be 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 while it may sound like a dream job, 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. They say that two in three 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 putting the hard work in. You have to be willing to do the grittier and harder things as the industry is far more 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, VOD review, as well as taking time to go to other people and learn. Don’t work blindly but work smart.
Any last thoughts?
I ask that companies out there, venture capital, business, athletes competing in other sports, and all the people out there from different walks of life support us and what we do. Australia and New Zealand are fantastic sporting nations and it is time for us to be adapting and changing our general mentality toward this rising genre. Esports is here to stay and will only continue to grow. We’re going to go out there and try to make Australia proud. That’s what I’m doing, and I know that that’s what a lot of other Esport athletes out there are doing.