dastan: "We identified five or six problems that we need to address and work on"
Virtus.pro got off to a strong start at the Twickenham Stadium in London as the team won their opening series against Heroic in flawless fashion. The Kazakhstani side closed out the Danes' map pick, Overpass, with a 16-8 score, later clinching Vertigo with a nail-biting 16-14 scoreline.
After the dust had settled, we sat down with dastan to discuss his recent comments on the state of the team and get an explanation about what he meant by "cardinal changes" in an interview conducted after DreamHack Open Leipzig. The coach also gave us a detailed account of the team's issues and what he felt went well during in Saturday's series.
In an interview you gave after Leipzig, you mentioned that the team would have a serious conversation and that cardinal changes were coming. Many speculated that this could mean roster adjustments for the team. Could you elaborate on what you meant?
Everyone knows that our results have been unsatisfactory. In Leipzig we spent around two days talking to each other, trying to understand the reason behind why we've been playing so poorly. Losses at this level of play can't be connected to a single issue, and after our conversations, we identified five or six problems that we need to address and work on. If we made any roster adjustments at this stage, it really wouldn't have been the best option.
We had never found ourselves in an in-game crisis like this so we don't have the experience of trying to find our way out of it. It's not as easy as it seems when you're losing. At large events we had really close matches, for example, against MIBR at the CS:GO Asia Championships and mousesports and forZe at EPICENTER, they were all very close matches, but the end results were losses. The losses have a tendency to crop up mentally, and we really want to remain energetic. When you have a lot of losses they have a significant impact on the psychological component. This is why we had the conversations and are looking to find the strength to get back on our path towards getting good results.
You mentioned that the team identified five or six issues that you feel you need to address. Could you delve a bit deeper into what those are?
Firstly, we worked on reverting back to certain positions that we changed in that period. We went back to our usual defaults on the offense and positions as CTs. We all calmed down once we made that change because when we started losing, we tried to adjust basic things like who holds which angles and our responsibilities in-game.
Secondly, in-game discipline. We've implemented a lot of control over entry-frags, the morale component of the team and the belief in our playstyle. Before we were slumping we had massive belief in our system, but recently when we lost one or two rounds, that belief could really take a hit. Everyone really broke down all of those moments and all five of us talked about them and came to the conclusion that we need to believe in what we do as a team.
The next issue was the individual performance of specific players. We addressed what caused them and why the individual showings were poor. This involved conversations with players and is largely connected to their psychology. We tried to support the players and tried to identify what the underlying issue was.
In-game leading and leadership were also discussed, and we have three people who are leaders: Jame, qikert and AdreN. The hierarchy needed to be re-examined, and we needed to restore players' belief in Jame's calls. We had never had conversations like the ones we had in Leipzig. It was a really serious moment for our team, and we're trying to get ourselves out of this crisis.
In our conversation you mentioned the psychological issues that the team experiences on several occasions. Does the team currently have a sports psychologist?
We worked with a psychologist around two years ago, when we had just got together as a team. During the initial stages of the team, he really helped us out. At the moment we don't have a psychologist, but when we spoke to the management about hiring one, we said we would really like to hire somebody who is knowledgeable about the industry. As for now, we're our own psychologists. To get five people on the same wavelength, especially during a crisis like ours, is a very difficult situation. We are learning to get out of this situation, so, in a way, it's an experience.
Contrary to previous results, your showing against Heroic here in London was a convincing 2-0 victory. What did you do differently in that specific match when compared to some of the ones where you struggled?
I think that we prepared really well for the match. We dedicated a lot of time to preparation and refreshed ourselves psychologically, something our CEO, manager, and staff helped out with. We went into the match in a solid psychological form. In Leipzig we had it in our heads that we were supposed to win without a chance, that urge got in the way of us shining; now we approached it a bit more calmly. For this tournament, the players had a better psychological approach. Obviously we'd like this to continue, but victories really help us bond. To be able to once more feel what it means to win is very pleasant.
As a person who observes the team from the side, do you feel the recent transfer to Virtus.pro ended up causing additional stress to perform, which possibly contributed to the negative results?
Without a doubt. After we were signed by Virtus.pro, we felt that we wanted to prove ourselves because the organisation expects big results from us. We experienced that feeling. We've already been eliminated early at two tournaments and have calmed down a bit since. I'll repeat myself in saying that in the negative period that we had, a single round loss would break us psychologically. We hadn't experienced this in too many of our previous matches.
The main thing for us is landing victories because a victory strengthens our bond, our belief in one another and our morale. We really need victories, we're hungry for them. This positive state renews your love towards Counter-Strike, and celebrating a victory is absolutely amazing.