We caught up with Björn "THREAT" Pers on his team's day off in Cologne, after NiP went 3-0 in the group stage. In a chat with HLTV.org, THREAT talked about what he struggled the most with as a coach, taking a more passive role and roster changes.
In an interview for HLTV.org, Björn "THREAT" Pers remembered his first steps as a coach, talked about the roles different players have and NiP's slump since the ELEAGUE Major Main Qualifier.
I want to go way, way back to when you were playing in Team Acer for a period of time, you got some good results there, I think there was a win over fnatic or something, and after that, your "playing career" was coming to an end. From that point onwards, were you already looking for coaching opportunities, was that something that was in your mind, were you more approached by NiP? How did that work out?
Well, I started playing in Acer at the end of 2014, with my old friends, kHRYSTAL and those guys. At that time, none of us wanted something serious. We were watching a lot of CS:GO and we wanted to play on a casual level. And I think, one thing that killed that team was that it actually became kind of serious in the end, because as you said, we had some decent results. Because of that, we were like, we have to practice, and it just killed the fun for us.
At that point I got a lot of casting offers, I didn't really think about coaching at that time. And since I was going to move to Japan in 6 months I didn't want to commit myself to anything. So I did some casting, I worked for FACEIT that summer, after Acer, and I was approached by NiP for the first time at DreamHack Valencia that year, just before I went to Japan. I said to them: "I can't do anything now, I'm moving to Asia, maybe we can discuss something when I come back". That is what happened, they contacted me when I was in Japan in the end, and I signed the contract.
Talking about the first months with NiP, how did that develop, the relationship between you and team, what were your first goals, adapting to being a coach?
I was actually a bit nervous because I really didn't have any experience of professional CS:GO myself because even though I played in Acer it wasn't that good of a team. So I was a bit nervous but I said, "OK, they wanted me to help them, I'm just going to say how I want to play the game, I'm going to call in that way and they can either listen to me or not". And they were very open, they listened to all of my ideas and I think we got some really good results because of that at the beginning.
We all watched the matches and saw how the team changed with you leading the team, but what were your general ideas, goals, what did you have in mind for the team?
Well, my general theory on how to play CS is... quite obvious. You just want to maximize the chances to win the round, or win the game. Which sounds really simple, but if you really break it down you can find a lot of flaws on how a lot of players approach different situations, especially when it comes to the economy. So I really think that is one of the aspects where we really shine, we can handle the economy quite well, and do good decisions. Like if you want to save, if you want to go for the exit kills...
Talking about that early period, what were your biggest struggles as a coach, what did you struggle the most implementing into the team?
One of my biggest struggles was, actually, I underrated how hard it was to communicate some information, how much time it took. For example, if I have an idea that they are playing 3 on A on Cache and there is only 1 B, in my mind it's like, OK, let's rush B immediately. I tell them, but someone misunderstands, someone takes a little longer to get there.
I got really frustrated in te beginning when things didn't work out exactly the way that I wanted, and I think that was my biggest struggle, I had to adapt, understanding that communication is very difficult. You have to be able to adapt to other people's communication skills and how they think.
After you had a very good period with NiP, that was the first half of 2016, then came the part where people started figuring you out a bit. Can you tell me about that, how did you approach that problem and the team as well?
I think it was mostly my fault at that time, because in the beginning, I had my own coaching computer, so I had the opportunity to constantly watch the overview of the map. That changed in the beginning of the summer, I had to stand behind them. I thought that it wouldn't matter that much, but it was way more difficult, at least in the way I liked to do my in-game leading.
So I think they should have changed me earlier, and Xizt to become the in-game leader. I think that was my fault, I should have recognized the problem earlier. I think that really hurt us that summer, especially last ESL One Cologne.
After that, I think, came the period when you were away again, you weren't traveling to that many events. Tell me about that, how did working with the team change at that time?
At the end of last summer, obviously we had some bad results and at the same time Valve made the coach ruling. So I was thinking to myself, OK, I have basically one year left of school, but if I want to finish it in one year, I have to put a lot of effort in. With that, combined with the coaching role, I thought: "OK, I'm going to go all in on school now". So I talked with the owners of NiP and we discussed it and they came up with an idea that I should have a more passive role. That's what I did until just a few weeks ago.
What was your role, or did you have a role, in the roster changes that NiP did? First, it was pyth being removed and draken coming in, and then REZ?
Of course, I come with input, who we should change, who we should take in. Because in some sense I'm responsible for the results of the team as a coach. So, yeah, my opinion matters when it comes to the changes.
We have some other teams were coaches have the ultimate say, or at least they present it that way, they make the roster, bench people... That is not your role in NiP? And do you think that that is the ideal way to take it?
I think that it would be ideal, but it's also as in professional sports when you are doing player transfers, you have to find a player, be able to transfer him, maybe you swap players, maybe you have to buy him.
There is a lot of that stuff going on, where coaches obviously don't have any power. But as I said, when it actually comes to who we should look into, I have that power and I think coaches should have that power.
One of the struggles in the last three to five months for NiP, has been GeT_RiGhT's performance. He has not been playing as well as he used to. Tell me from your perspective, what was going wrong with him and what did you do to try and mend that?
I think he just put too much pressure on himself. Obviously, it's not that he just became a bad player, because if you look just six months before his form became shaky we won Oakland and StarLadder S2 as well, that was without me. I just think that after one bad performance at the Major Qualifier, people got really nervous, there was so much pressure from the community. I think that is the main reason why, not only him, the entire team just played really poorly.
Now the new five you have, how did you set up the team, or Xizt, whoever sets up the team? What is the vision for this five and how they should play, role wise?
I think the first thing we wanted to do was to make it feel like a completely new team. We wanted to change our map pool, we wanted to change our positions, at the beginning we changed everything, but when we practiced a bit, we realized, OK, we can't just change everything because that doesn't make any sense. But I think we've changed as much as we had to change and it feels really fresh when we are playing now, we have a very different approach.
Can you walk me through the roles? I talked to Xizt, he told me a bit about it, but you can tell me as well, who fits in where and what is expected from each player?
I can talk about the new guys, first it's REZ, he is the B anchor player, classic guy where you can just put him on a site, he doesn't take that much room in the game, which is really nice because we have both draken and GeT_RiGhT, two players who really want to take initiative when they play, especially draken. We were in desperate need of that kind of an AWPer and he has been playing really well doing that style.
I think both f0rest and Xizt, they can do anything, we have them in all different kinds of roles. Obviously, f0rest is our second AWPer, Xizt is not but I think those are two very versatile players.
Let's touch on the tournament here, you have a 3-0, you had some convincing wins but only on Cache for some reason. Just tell me a bit about your performance here in Cologne.
Yeah, it's very strange that we got Cache three times, especially the third one. Because when we beat G2 very convincingly two days ago, we thought OK, we are not going to get Cache anymore at this event. Because even in practice it has been going really well on that map, but for some reason, mousesports didn't ban it and we won again.
I think it is going to work in our favor because we are a new team now, people can't watch any of our demos, and we've only shown them one map and we've been playing really well on that map as well. So I think we are in a really good spot when it comes to the map vetos for the playoffs.
What do you expect now with the 3-0? Where do you think you can place?
I think it really depends on what teams we play. Obviously, if we play SK or FaZe because it's going to be really tough, everyone considers them the top two teams in the world right now. But if we get a good draw I think we will be able to make it to the semi-final or final. I really think we can put up a fight versus the best teams as well.