stikle-: "gxx- can be a one-man show, he has the skill, he just has to unlock it within himself"
Bad News Eagles' skipper got behind the microphone to share his thoughts on his team's progression as they join the 2-1 pool at the Major.
Bad News Eagles have started their run at the PGL Major in Antwerp with a 2-1 record after the first three rounds of best-of-ones, edging past Eternal Fire before succumbing to forZe on the first day of play. On the second day, Klesti "stikle-" Kola's men prevailed over the most veteran lineup at the event, Imperial, with Dionis "sinnopsyy" Budeci even pulling out his karambit to slice Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and get his team on match point.
The interview with the 23-year-old coach ranged a variety of topics, going back to the team's preparation after their qualifying run at the European RMR in Romania to Bad News Eagles' first three matches at the Major, with other topics including Genc "gxx-" Kolgeci's stellar performance against Imperial, what the team needs to get to the next level, and what it's like being the first team at a Major since 2014 without organizational support.
There were a lot of emotions after you qualified from the RMR and you then played the BLAST Showdown. How did you guys prepare for the Major?
After we qualified it felt unreal, our emotions were all over the place. But after that everything was normal for us, there was no celebration or anything like that. We didn't go to any dinner or anything, we just went back to Kosovo and chilled a bit for one or two days before refocusing for BLAST Showdown and ESEA Advanced. We wanted to keep going up, but to be honest we were a bit drained. All of our energy was drained and we needed to refill, so we took some days off and then we played BLAST Showdown.
We were a bit unlucky, we threw the game against NIP, but it was a good lesson for us. That game showed us where we need to control our emotions, not go all-in in the first rounds and save some energy for later in the game. We did that in the RMR, but it's a learning process for us playing against tier one teams, we have to get used to it. Then we took some days to chill after BLAST and practiced a bit and prepared some stuff for the Major.
Talking about handling emotions, it appears that the team can be very hot or cold and that being so emotional can be a bit draining at times. Are you guys working on that to try and be less momentum based?
That's actually really true, we are really emotional and it is something we've been working on, but at the moment we don't have the tools. What I'm lacking right now is a psychologist or a mental coach, that would help me a lot. I'm doing all of that because at the moment I'm the manager, the coach, the social media manager, I have to work the psychology of the team and it's hard to do each of those things properly.
And you're what, 23?
Yeah, 23. [laughs]
I think what will help us improve the most is getting a mental coach or psychologist so I can focus on other stuff and he would give the team more direction. We're working on that, we see how we do and are trying to fix our mistakes one by one, trying to find the key parts. We know that if we scream a lot in the rounds we win it can drain us by the end of the game so we have to keep a steady line of emotions, not go too high or too low, just stay in the game, round by round, and just feel it without going over the top.
Let's talk about the matches themselves. You started off with a 16-14 win on Dust2 against Eternal Fire, did you expect it to be that close?
To be honest, no. We expected to beat them harder. We had the game under control and could have closed it earlier. We knew we were going to play Dust2 against them, we prepared for them on it and we had some set-ups and certain rounds we prepared exactly for Eternal Fire and their play style. That's what I did during practice. We knew what they were going to do, but we made some mistakes, it was probably the LAN pressure.
If you saw the game, we were up 6-1 and knew what they were doing, but there were some individual mistakes and communication issues which always arise for a team like us, be it online or here. That cost us some rounds, but on the T side we regained control of the map and went through with it. We were happy with it, after that we went back and watched our mistakes and talked about how to improve for the next Dust2.
Your second match of the day was against forZe, which seemed like a bit of a 50-50 match with two teams that are trending upwards. Things didn't work out for you guys, though. What happened there?
I don't want to make excuses, we just didn't perform. There were tons of communication issues, we were probably drained emotionally or something. I don't know, to be honest. We went back after the match, rewatched it and had a huge team talk at night after that game.
We talked through everything happening in the game, outside of the game, communication issues, maybe issues between the players. We found the issues, fixed the issues, and even went further on how to improve. The forZe loss was our fault, we shouldn't have lost it. We were prepared for it, but it was a good lesson.
Can you give me some of the details from that team talk and how you tried to bounce back?
One of the main points was our aggression and that we were taking initiative alone instead of focusing on the main goal of the rounds. On the T side we were slacking off and not focusing on the site, which is where you win the rounds, and instead we were focusing on other areas. That hurt us a bit because we were losing advantages, map control, and then they got momentum off of it and got rolling. Norwi destroyed us because of those mistakes.
Another thing was gxx- taking more lead of the team, communicating more and having his freedom to do whatever he wants. He proved it and showed it today, he had control of the game and owned Imperial.
Let's jump right into that, you tweeted to the doubters of gxx-, telling them to enjoy the gxx- show after he got 27 kills on CT side and 33 total on Vertigo. Tell me about him stepping up and the match against Imperial in general.
As I was saying before, we gave gxx- motivation, we worked on certain parts about how he can improve himself. All of my players are really good, everyone can have his own game and carry, but the AWPer is very important. Having a stable AWPer doing whatever he wants and taking charge, that will improve us even further. That's what we need from him and he proved today to us, the other guys, the fans, the players, that he can be that guy.
gxx- can be a one-man show, he has the skill, he just has to unlock it within himself. As I said before, communicate more, take charge, do whatever he wants... He has the freedom, he just has to go for it.
Is it a confidence issue, he just has to get the confidence to do these things?
Yeah, yeah. It's a confidence thing. He has the skill, he knows everything. I would say that he's the guy that knows everything I teach. He knows every nade, every smoke, he's a bit shy when it comes to the game — not outside the game, he talks a lot —, but in the game it might be the pressure, the LAN, but he knows and he will do it. From now on you'll see the gxx- show!
There was that one round to get match point, it was 1vs5 and FalleN got knifed by sinnopsyy. Run me through that moment.
It was a funny moment, I can't remember the round exactly but I remember the last part. We knew that the last guy was on A, we killed the guy before on connector and we knew that the last guy was on A because sinnopsyy was on ramp and rigoN in connector, so the only position left was A. I think sinnopsyy heard him scope on A and the four other guys were like 'oh, it's not nice, don't knife him' because we look up to these guys, they were the icons of CS, we always watched them.
Now, having the chance to knife him feels unreal, so sinnopsyy ignored all of them and went for it. But that's nice, though, because when you knife someone you get into their mental game. It may destroy them, or may even hype them, but it doesn't matter, you have to do it and you also get the money bonus.
As you say, these are legends of the game. How does it feel to beat them at a Major?
To be honest, it feels like we own it, we deserve it. They've been it before, but we were better than them, we can beat anyone here if we play our A game. Beating them feels no different than beating any other team, it's just another opponent that we have and we have to beat them whatever way.
If you had one thing to tell your team that they need to improve to get to the next level or improve your game. What would you say?
What I focus most on all of the time, and I've been going through this all year — which is hard to do with players that come from pick-up games — is to bring structure, bring ideas, bring strats, because they have the individual skill that they get from PUGs.
That's the hard part because I push from one side, they push more for the PUG style and we have to find a middle ground so that we can use the PUG style, we can use the structured style and mix it up. If the team manages to work the two things together, that's when we'll reach the next level, so the thing we need to improve on is our knowledge about the game, our nades, focusing more in practice.
The guys will even tell you that they joke around a bit in practice and I'm the guy pushing to be more serious, focus on what we do in practice because when a situation arises in the official games you'll know how to react. If you don't put as much focus on practice, it will show.
I think it's understandable because we've been without an organization for five months and it's me doing all of the work while the guys focus on the game while finding other means to make money, so it's kind of hard. If we get a good organization and find proper structure I think we'll reach higher levels as players and as a coach.
Speaking of organizations, you're the first team without one to play a Major since dAT in 2014. Are there any plans of joining an organization? Do you have any offers?
After the RMR, as soon as we qualified for the Major, I had offers instantly coming into my email and DMs. We saw them, we considered them, but we decided that we weren't going to sign with any organization before the Major and that we'd decide after. If any news about an organization comes, it will be after. We're going to sort that after, but there's some news that will come soon, we'll have a cool guy come on the team.