ImAPet: "I think that in CLG I was more of an analyst than a coach, but that's no longer true"
With coaching help from ImAPet, Damian "daps" Steele was able to lead NRG to their first playoff appearance, making top eight at StarSeries i-League Season 5. The North Americans took down VG.Flash, HellRaisers and finally Renegades in the groups, while losing to North and Liquid.
After their final group stage match, we spoke with ImAPet about the team's communication issues, practice habits and his personal advancements in the coach role.
In your team's first interview here, it was mentioned that communication on LAN was a big issue. What are your thought on that, how do you see that problem?
We started practicing after some of our losses, and I noticed that in those games we were having a lot of fun, people were laughing, cheering, being really weird, being themselves. And when we get to LAN, it's nothing the same. We are not making the same plays, we are not having fun. That was one thing that I made clear to the guys, I just said that we should have fun like we do in practice, but maybe tone it down in practice a little bit, so it's similar to LAN. That's the biggest change we made from the online play to LAN play.
Another talking point about this event was what TACO mentioned about your practice. What he wanted to say, I guess, is that you play mega-aggressive sometimes, disrespectful, making it useless practice, and that you don't play that way in official matches. Even though you've been on the team shortly, what's your take on the matter?
I definitely noticed what TACO said, it is kind of true, they do play more scrimmy and more aggressive than they do in official matches. We had a big talk about it after our first couple of losses, I just told them that we need to be more disciplined in practice, we can't just push around and do stupid stuff or just start to troll and push because they are pushing us. We have to have full respect all the time, otherwise, we won't improve and do the same plays on LAN.
One of the things people tend to say is that you are more fit in the analyst role than the coaching role, what is your take on that? Is there any truth to it?
I think that when I was in CLG, I was more of an analyst than an actual coach, but that's no longer true. I definitely took the criticism that FNS gave me and I worked on that really hard. I watched a bunch of documentaries about professional sports teams, I read books, I did everything I could, I took feedback from all my players, past and current. I worked really hard and when I see all this criticism, saying that I'm just an analyst now, I feel like people just take it from the CLG days and have not even looked at what I've done past that. I have improved a lot
I think it's just creating a bunch of false narratives, all the time, I hear it a lot from analysts and in Reddit comments. I'm not really sure why that is, I definitely, and you can ask most of my players, I've tried to solve internal disputes. Obviously, I've been put in some really sticky situations and it's not the easiest, there are some situations which I think are almost impossible to fix. So I think that you can call me an analyst all you want, but I'll just take what my players have to say.
After you rose to fame in CLG, you got the offer to join OpTic which was a very good team at that moment. But the organization would end up changing three rosters, the North American one, the European one and then the Danish-American one. Can you give me your feelings about your time in OpTic?
The time in OpTic was kind of weird, with the NA roster we only had one event and we didn't do too much, we did a little bit together and we had an OK result. Obviously, the roster fell apart, then there was the EU roster that mixwell and OpTic created together, and I was just put into the system. I think in the European one, I definitely valued the time I had there because I learned a lot, and I was able to fix the mistakes I had from CLG. I got a perspective on a different style of CS, so it wasn't that bad. Obviously, things didn't work out come January, which is fine, those things happen all the time in CS so I can't really be too disappointed about it because the experience was still good.
With the Danish-American one, that's the one I regret the most, just staying there because I could've left to another team, however, I decided to stay because I wanted to remain loyal to my organization. I told OpTic J (OpTic's founder) that I want to stay loyal to the org and not go jumping from team to team. I wanted to find my home and stay there. That's my only regret in OpTic, just staying with the American-Danish team. It seemed like a good team on paper, but internally it was really bad.
After that period, as you said you had other offers that you skip and in the end, you were left without a team. As far as I know, you also started learning Portuguese, was that also something you've done to broaden your horizons? Tell me about that period.
I started learning Portuguese, I'm not good at it at all, I wouldn't say I'm fluent but I can understand some things, some CS stuff and some basic everyday conversation. I had an offer around IEM Sydney but it fell through, so I was left without any options and I wanted to make sure that people knew that I wasn't done with going to Europe or anything like that. It was a scary time because I didn't know if I would get a team I would like.
But once I got an offer from NRG, it was an American team and I hadn't been with an American team in for a long time, and it also had familiar people, I talk to daps a lot and Ethan is one of my ex-teammates. It made a lot of sense for me to go there because I felt really comfortable, there is a lot of young, inexperienced talent there that I could bring my experiences from OpTic to.
You mentioned Ethan with whom you worked in CLG, what have you seen as the biggest differences from when you originally worked with him?
In CLG he was more rough, we got him from Rank S, he was still developing, making small mistakes like not wide-peeking at the right moments. As time past on, he got a lot smarter, he got more comfortable on LAN. I think that in NRG he is the most LAN-comfortable player in terms of our star talent. He got a lot smarter with his utility usage, his positioning got way better, he sometimes secondary AWPs which he never did on CLG. I think he improved in all departments, he is a really good all-around player.
What are your general thoughts about this tournament, playing in the group stage with your team?
It's definitely stressful because I didn't have too much time to fix everything. But every day, win or lose, we are still practicing, we are still trying to fix the small things that they have currently, and add new things when we have more time. We are just taking it one series at a time, keep practicing. If we end up being eliminated, we will just make our stay here into a small bootcamp for ECS, and if we keep advancing, it is just going to boost our confidence for ECS. It's a win-win situation.
Are you a fan of the BO3 Swiss format?
Yeah, the format is pretty good, you get to see your map pool and experience the feeling of a deep run in the tournament without actually having the deep run. That's good for my players especially because they are inexperienced on LAN. You can't call them LAN veterans, but they are getting there.
It's obviously going to be a different ball game when you get into the arena, there is a crowd there and all that. Your team is obviously not a favorite to win the title, do you have any small goals for your team, things that you want to see from them in the playoffs?
Obviously, we would like to get to the semis, that's our goal, but if we don't, I think it's fine, we still did more than what NRG did in the past, it's still a good improvement. We are just taking it one series at a time, we are not stressing anything. If we lose we are just going to practice afterward, so it's not a big deal.