ropz: "Once we start losing, we go into this deep state that's hard to come back from"
We sat down with Robin "ropz" Kool after mousesports' semi-final loss to Astralis at the EPL Season 8 Finals, where the Estonian opened up about the team's problems with keeping their heads cool in big matches.
At their last LAN event of 2018, mousesports started out strong by beating Ghost and the No. 2-ranked team in the world Natus Vincere, before being sent to the lower bracket by MIBR. They then made it to the semis by rallying back from 0-1 against Renegades, but were sent packing by Astralis after narrowly losing Mirage and getting dominated on Inferno.
Mirage looked like the most likely way to pry open the Danes' otherwise impenetrable defences, but the map came down to a few key rounds in which mousesports couldn't stay composed. In the interview, the 18-year-old explained how those slim round losses take their toll on the team, and also shared his thoughts on how they can strengthen themselves psychologically.
The third round on Mirage, where Xyp9x got one of you guys through the smoke and killed two more on A site... it seems like Astralis often only need that one single round to take the psychological advantage. Do you feel that also, losing to them today in this fashion?
Yeah, it's pretty surprising. We have a lot of matches against them that end like 16-13 or 16-14, and we often think back 'if we had just won that one round, like the 1v3, we could have won the match'. Taking a look at it later just makes you mad sometimes, when you look at it much more calmly. In those pressured situations, we really try to take them as a unit and win them without giving any chances, and I think that's why Astralis are so good right now, if you give them just any sort of chance they'll just capitalise on it. And that's what we will probably work on much more.
So, how will you do that? I mean, it's difficult if not impossible to be a team that never gives away a single chance...
Well, if you're against someone in a clutch situation, let's say the guy is alone, you usually just try to stick together as a team, so you can guarantee the refrag, cause that's like the only way of not giving him any chances. If he has like three people in his crosshair, he can't kill them all at once, so that's kind of like the only solution to play against clutches.
You've found yourselves in a lot of playoff matches all through the year and also won ESL One New York. But it has to be difficult to keep your composure in important situation like these, where you know you'll eventually meet the likes of Astralis. Is there anything you can do better team-wise on the psychological level?
There's still room for improvement, always. If we're going into matches like this one against Astralis, I mean one day, we know we'll for sure beat them, it's not going to stay like this forever. We're just kind of like hoping that... something clicks, so we can play as a team. It's pretty hard to see what the result is going to be, but psychologically, the team really needs to be in a good mood to beat these kinds of teams. If anyone is just a little bit down or has a little bit of a bad day on a match day like this, then it's pretty hard to win against the current top teams. You're always going to have some kind of stress in your life that's going to affect you, but I think everyone should have a clean sheet and be on the same page on a day like this.
So, why do you think that doesn't happen for you? I mean, is there anything you can pinpoint that makes it so that you don't keep your heads cool?
Yeah, I think a problem in our team is that we're from different countries and we obviously don't share the same culture, so I think what's obvious compared to other teams is that we spend less time together, going out, eating, just doing the normal things. That's definitely something we can work on. And also, once we start losing, it's also pretty hard for us. We go into this deep state that it's hard to come back from, and no-one is really saying good stuff, we just hope that we'll comeback and I think we can work on some positivity, it could really help us.
You talked about everyone having a lot of stuff going on in their life. The big thing about you, which was especially clear after the Major profile video is the fact that you're still in school. I read somewhere that you actually changed the way you go to school, can you expand on that?
This year, the school year started round around the time where the Major began, and I realised that nowadays, it is pretty easy to live off of esports with the way the scene is going. Our conditions as players are getting much better, so I decided to work out something with school, I told them that I'll have a much better chance of doing well and win if I can focus more. So they proposed to me that I could do one year of school over two years, stretching it out so I can spend more time playing tournaments and then do my school work whenever I want to, and it doesn't pressure me as much.
You obviously have to finish school, but since you said before that your problems stem from not being together as a team as much as other teams, do you see yourself moving away from Estonia or take other measures to have you guys be close to each other?
You're hinting at gaming houses here, and I think they're not very good for a team like us. With the differences in our personalities, it just wouldn't work out. I have no idea which teams could actually do it, it could work for some teams, but definitely not for us.
Moving on to your individual level, you obviously had the big breakout year last year and some very good runs this year. But this season, I won't say you've fallen off, cause you're always above average, but you haven't really posted as many huge numbers as we've seen before, like earlier in the year. How are you feeling about your individual play?
I always try to be very consistent, and I think that's the number one thing you should prioritise as a player in every match. Do your thing, be there for your team, and above all do not drop off. Even though I'm not having these huge matches every tournament, or putting up big numbers at events, I think I'm always doing a good job for my team, and that's my number one focus.