Building the Team Liquid Infrastructure

January 14 2017

Since the inception of our League of Legends team, we made strides to innovate and push our esports structure to new heights. And that doesn't stop for the 2017 season. So far, you know Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet, Head Coach David "Dlim" Lim, and General Manager Nick "swaguhsaurus" Phan; but that's not all.

This year, we're investing largely into our support staff, welcoming back Brandon "Saintvicious" DiMarco as our Strategic Coach and bringing on-board Josh "Jarge" Smith as our Head Analyst. Joining them will be Kevin "TeeKHay" Bracken, and Keith "Snowspots" Torres as our analysts. We're committed to giving our players the best possible chance at success by creating an environment that shares a lot of the responsibilities that go into running a successful, cohesive unit. You can say we've built a small army to make this happen.

A word from David Lim

"Me and Saint work really well off each other and we have a pretty similar philosophy on how the team should be ran. It should be very family oriented and team focused. We have to make sure we have a good enough environment to move. Saint's come in and he's been watching my back. It's been a very good relationship so far."

Read More About Dlim.

- David "Dlim" Lim, Head Coach


A word from Saintvicious

“I'm really happy to be working with Steve again. Team Liquid is definitely a lot more structured and I feel that environment not only helps the players, but it also helps myself.

I'm coming in as more of a strategic coach to bolster the team's performance and edge. We wanna be the best. We don't want to slack off. On some days when we're doing good in scrims, we'll do other activities like hiking, or art. It's important that they get out of the bubble and learn something new together. I don't want kids that are programmed to play the game. I want to grow adults, so they can successful in life after this."

- Brandon "Saintvicious" DiMarco, Strategic Coach


A word from Jarge

"This structure is definitely not anything new as a concept. Teams have had multiple coaches and multiple analysts way before, but as far as I know, this is the highest "budget" staff that's been assembled on any LCS team before. Again, I could be wrong. I'm not privy to much inside information. As for how it works, it's too early to tell obviously I am hopeful and a lot of my job will be to marry the needs of the coaches with the skills and knowledge of the analytical team.

I think in-house analytical staff is going to fast become a necessity, not only for the benefit of the team since they have 24 hour access, but also for the growth of the staff. It's hard to learn if you're not inside the room."

- Josh "Jarge" Smith, Head Analyst

Interview with Jarge
Ken Serra: First tell me a bit about yourself, where you're from, and what drew you into esports.

Jarge: My name's Josh "Jarge" Smith and I'm from Leicester, United Kingdom. I kind of accidentally fell into esports more than I actively pursued it. I would play LoL with friends but ended up having to get a night job for personal reasons so I couldn't play ranked 5s with my friends anymore. I ended up helping them improve because I was considered to have the best understanding of the game, this was more around season 2.

I was an avid watcher of the pro scene having played and followed the game since beta. As I was helping my team improve I was told that I should pursue coaching as they thought I was good at it and the team had started to play less and less so I tried that ended up coaching some random plat-level ranked 5s teams and slowly building them up.

Eventually I landed a coaching position in a diamond-ranked 5v5 team and they liked me as a coach so I stayed with them. Eventually we hit rank 1 on the 5v5 ladder and we qualified into the very first challenger series in EUW, since then I've been bouncing around teams, slowly improving, so it kind of happened accidentally more than me actively looking to get into esports.

Ken Serra: Very cool. So you've sort of built up this progression, starting at the plat level and then eventually landing a gig on a pro team. What sort of experiences did you bring from your own life that made you suitable for this sort of role?

Jarge: I'm not sure much from my life has really helped in my esports career. A lot of the skills and knowledge have been developed on the job. I'm as grass roots as it gets in terms of esports coaching in league but I've always been a big gamer.

I'm competitive because I have a younger brother and we always competed, pretty similar story to most competitive people. I actually used to play guild wars 1 competively, but there was no esports for that game and this is like 10 years ago

Ken Serra: Ah I see! Well, being able to adapt is important and you embody that well. And you have that gaming experience which is incredibly important. Ok, so you've kept climbing, and I believe you eventually landed a gig at Fnatic then eventually TSM, top teams and two of our rivals in the space. Can you tell us a bit about how that came to be, what you did, and what you learned from that experience?

Jarge: Okay.

So the CS team I was on did pretty well in EUCS. We hit the Ro8 knockouts and we got knocked out by MYM. Oh, one of the players on that team was PowerofEvil; formally UoL, OG, and now on Misfits. So we go way back. And we're pretty good friends still.

I tried following PowerOfEvil to other teams but there was some stuff going around that stopped me, so I started coaching other teams in CS. Eventually PoE joined UoL and when they qualified for LCS they also got invited to IEM San Jose 2014. PoE asked me to do some scouting for UoL so I did some scouting.

They ended up beating TSM, so that was good.

That experience gave me confidence to pursue LCS so I applied to be Fnatic's Head Coach when they advertised. Carn tells me I was in the final 2 candidates, me and Deilor.

Deilor got the job but he saw my application and offered me the job as his analyst so that's how I ended up on Fnatic

Ken Serra: Oh very cool!

Jarge: In terms of what I learned, a lot of it was just how a team functions on the inside. I'd coached before and done analysis but it was always remote. Since gaming houses for CS was not a thing in season 3 or 4, or really season 5 tbh, but working with fnatic helped me learn how a team functions, how they structure scrims and review, how they scout, how they learn, how they improve, what aspects of the game are important.

I got to learn strategic concepts, and talking to the players I got to understand how pro players think which allowed me to adapt my work to them. This is something I think still lacks in the scene. A lot of people talk about the game in an almost utopian system where they talk about optimal decisions and stuff but they often don't account for the fact that players are human beings with emotions and thinking patterns, habits and flaws and it's super important to recognize that.

Ken Serra: Yep, it was something we lacked last season, that we forgot our players were not only really young, but they were human.

Jarge: Yeah, that was probably the most important thing I learned. Then obviously I moved to TSM. That was an unmitigated disaster. I've reflected a lot on what happened in TSM. I certainly wasn't ready to be in that sort of position. I went in super cocky and thought I was the smartest guy ever but it turns out that while I understood the strategic concepts going on I still couldn't apply them and it took me the split with TSM to learn that.

I had no idea how to build a learning structure and there were also serious issues with player synergy and communication. A lot of it could've been avoided if i was just more qualified or more experienced but it was too much too fast for me and I asked to step back to do more analytical things since I knew I wasn't ready. Luckily Parth stepped in and the rest is history. I took the summer split off

My confidence was at record low levels and I needed to spend time re-learning the game.
So I spent some time doing content and dedicated myself to studying the game and then here I am at TL

Ken Serra: And does that reflection play in part as a reason for dialing back to join TL as more of the analyst role, as opposed to a more refined head coaching role? Or was this the opportunity that was presented to you?

Jarge: I actually wasn't planning on coming back to esports. I spent some time living in LA after I left TSM. Then initially offered me a coaching position for a proposed challenger series team but when Yellowstar left that plan was axed in favour of scouting another support which took priority.

Because I didn't want to stay on as an analyst because I felt like I'd let the team down with my inadequacies - again referring back to my low confidence at the point, I figured it was best to move on.

Anyway so I stayed in LA for a bit because I was living with Parth and the TSM video crew, but when I got back to the UK I started looking for work back in my old field, which was working as a barista. But then worlds came around and I got hit with the buzz again and I started doing content and really studied the game.

I decided I wanted to join another team. I got quite a few good offers. I think like 4 NALCS teams offered me a position of some sort, but what I wanted to do was get in a team at the ground floor and work myself back up. I wanted to work with someone experienced and skilled and David Lim fit the bill.

I agreed to join the team without even knowing the roster. I joined for David because I know his work and I respect him a lot and I know I can learn a lot from him.

Ken Serra: Aw, you shouldn't feel to down on yourself! Esports really blew up in the last few years, so the workloads of the analyst/coaching positions really became a serious factor in the success of the team. I believe you'll do good since you have great self reflection!

So a lot of people don't know, but what exactly do you do as an analyst? Being that there are 3-4 of you, what do you do differently from the others?

Jarge: So my job is to be the head analyst and without going too much into specifics, my best description of what good analysts do is mostly fill in the gaps.

Coaches will decide the direction of the team. Well, good coaches will, unless you're TSM Jarge! But yeah, coaches will decide the direction of the team, and set goals and be responsible for the improvement of the team in a direct sense

The analysts' jobs are mostly to fill in around that system and provide information and resources to the coach, so you're talking stuff like scouting enemy teams, meta research, helping with review if necessary, providing extra opinions, and giving information the coach would otherwise have no access to. Like data analytics, and things like that.

Ken Serra: Nice! OK wrapping up-- I know the organization really wants to push our new, larger infrastructure. How has this new structure meshed; is it too big? And do you think, budget a non-factor, that a system like this is the x-factor for team improvement that all teams should try to employ (perhaps compare this to your roots as a 1-man support staff)? Because in esports, what we're doing is still considered 'luxury' but Steve really likes to push new ideas.

Jarge: The structure is definitely not anything new as a concept teams have had multiple coaches and multiple analysts way before, but as far as I know, this is the highest "budget" staff that's been assembled on any LCS team before. Again, I could be wrong. I'm not privy to much inside information, as for how it works, it's too early to tell obviously I am hopeful and a lot of my job will be to marry the needs of the coaches with the skills and knowledge of the analytical team.

I am expected to manage the other analysts and since I'll be in-house I'll have an opportunity to work closely with David and Saint and get a better feel for what they need as they need it rather than them having to remember what they need and ask for it at a later date. I think in-house analytical staff is going to fast become a necessity, not only for the benefit of the team since they have 24 hour access, but also for the growth of the staff. It's hard to learn if you're not inside the room.

In fact I'd say it's close to impossible you get table scraps of information and knowledge but being in the room as the conversation happens is necessary for the strategic growth of any staff member

Ken Serra: Does our entire support staff live in the facilities?

Jarge: No, well, I have no idea where David lives, and the other analysts are remote. I'm currently remote as we're waiting on my VISA to be approved, but once that happens I'll be flying out to live in LA either close by or physically in the house with the players , that's TBD. Depends on circumstances and what not but I'm/they're flexible.

As long as I'm present for the scrims, reviews and important conversations then that's all that matters for what I'm looking to get out of this.


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Meet The Team

Steve "LiQuiD112" Arhancet, co-Owner and CEO

Steve Arhancet has been leading our League of Legends charge for as long as most NALCS fans can remember. He's played a pivotal role in developing the structure of our support staff and has spent every season developing and restructuring what it means to be a professional esports organization. Even with a large chunk of Team Liquid's overall vision, which is global in scope, on his plate, Steve still plays a role in the hands-on development of our League of Legends sector.

Read More About Steve Last Season


Nick "swaguhsaurus" Phan, General Manager

Nick Phan joined Team Liquid during the 2016 NALCS season. Self dubbed as swaguhsaurus, GM Nick brings a loving, caring nature to an otherwise hectic lifestyle for our players. His experiences will act as a huge resource for life learning. His knowledge with shoes might be a bonus.


Kevin "Teekhay" Bracken, Analyst

Kevin Bracken joined Team Liquid during the 2015 season and remained as one of our primary analysts. Seeing through the era of Zimmerman, Peter, then Locodoco and now David Lim, Kevin brings a metric ton of experience and knowledge to our squad. You can say he's weathered the storm, and hopefully will be part of a much brighter future.

Interview with TeeKhay
Ken Serra: Hiya! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, and what drove you towards esports?

Kevin Bracken: My name is Kevin Bracken, and my tag has been TeeKhay for a long time. I'm originally from Philadelphia, and then I moved to Worcester, MA for a while. While I was there, I attended college at Worcester State, and constantly got bad grades because I would stay up all night watching OGN and LPL. At some point, I realized that eSports is what made me happy, so I dropped out of school and started writing articles online. Eventually during S5 Spring Split I saw a post that TL was looking for analysts, and I've been with Liquid ever since

Ken Serra: Ah very cool, and yeah you've been a part of TL awhile now! When you were first brought on board (and even TL was sort of in its maturing phase), what were some of your responsibilities, or what did you do at the time?

Kevin Bracken: When I first came on, I was a volunteer mostly doing data work, going through scrims, and collecting stats for Mark and Peter. I would talk to Mark as often as I could about the team and the scrims, and eventually I started watching the games with him. Then they had me try out for a paid in-house position for LCS Summer, I got it, and began to work with the players more, making presentations mostly, but still mostly supporting the coaching staff.

After 2015 Summer I started working remotely for personal reasons. I was remote for the entirety of 2016.

Ken Serra: OK. So, moving from that more primitive age of TL in 2015, and then experiencing our growing pains in 2016. How different has this small bit of 2017 felt, with a larger support structure?

Kevin Bracken: To be honest, it's a huge difference in a positive way. Everyone is still figuring out their roles, but there is a more defined structure. We have a better idea of what we need to work on, what we as the support staff need to be looking for, and how we should work together. Communication is pretty greatly improved, so that makes things easier as well.

Ken Serra: So having this insider esports knowledge. Do you feel this sort of evolved system, budget permitting, with more staff is where other organizations should strive to be? Or is the 'best practices' aspect more important? What are your thoughts?

Kevin Bracken: In the current ecosystem, quality definitely comes before quantity, but other organizations should strive to have larger support staffs as talent permits. From the outside, it's hard to gauge how much work goes into being on the support staff for an eSports team, but it's a very involved process. Having more hands to divide up the workload creates a better environment to focus on the game itself and give the players the best quality support possible.


Keith "Snowspots" Torres, Analyst

The title of analyst embodies Keith Torres, otherwise known as Snowspots, quite well. As a computer science major who also happened to dabble in psychology, trying to solve the puzzle and find a solution to the problem just comes as second nature. Once there's a problem, Snowspots will gather all the information needed to crack the code (even if said information requires 700 pages of data work).


Interview with Snowspots
Ken Serra: Hiya! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from, and what drove you towards esports?

SnowSpots: My name's Keith. I'm from Riverside, California. Been there pretty much my entire life, outside of traveling to visit friends all over the country, and a brief stint in Georgia.

My first jump into e-sports was back in college, around 2005 or so. A bunch of my dorm-mates and I got into Smash Brothers Melee, and we ended up taking it quite a bit farther, actually trying to compete. I slowly got into routines of heavy practice and purposefully trying to improve rather than just improving though playtime. That's when I learned the importance of VoD's, and the first time I started attending and participating in tournaments.

From there, I continued to keep an interest in competitive gaming, shifting into Guild Leading a successful Heroic raiding guild in WoW, WotLK and Cataclysm. That was my first serious leadership role, in gaming in particular. Life happened a bit after that, in many different facets and competitive gaming dipped for awhile before I picked up LoL (after many years of WC3 DotA) while job hunting. Eventually, after watching pro play for a good while, I decided to try my hand at Analyst work as a job option. I had a passion for it, loved League, and it was/is a great puzzle to try to solve. During Worlds 2014, I made a huge push for it, putting out a few videos and taking a massive amount of notes to analyze and work through to prep myself for applying to teams during the off season.

Ken Serra: What did you study in school? And going from doing VoD reviews for yourself to raid leading; how did you get into being an Analyst for Team Liquid, and how different does this jump into top level pro play feel?

SnowSpots: I studied Computer Science for a few years in school and a little bit of Psychology and Counseling.

Raid leading in a way, taught me the "I can do this" mentality. I had played WoW before and always been dissatisfied with the guilds I got into and decided to give it a go. It was really successful and was one of the things that pushed me along at that point to be more proactive and give myself chances and to take them. Studying Smash matches, or reviewing WoW bosses and coming up with my own strategies rather than just copy/pasting other's and finding success showed that I had the analytical mind for gaming. I mean, I had believed that before, but it is always good to find success to give you that extra oomph.

Getting into Team Liquid may have just been chance and timing. Honestly, I never got much feedback on my application or what was liked/impressive about it. I didn't have a clear idea of HOW to get into League teams at the time so I mostly winged it. As I mentioned, during Worlds 2014 I did a big push to get myself ready for a team. I think I had around 700 pages of notes and writing and analysis from the entire event. I wrote a couple of articles and made a handful of analysis videos (which at the time, just having had a video to show may have been what got me into TL, as I started with editing videos and doing data work, mostly grunt work). After Worlds ended, I sent out a application to all of the teams just as an email to each one. I didn't know if they were looking or not, or even the best ways to find out, so I just threw out a wide net so to speak, and ended up joining when we were still Curse, right before the transition to TL happened.

Taking the jump into top level pro play has been interesting. When you're on the outside and trying to get in, most people have a lot of assumptions on how teams run or what their role will be if they've never been in one. It's a lot more disorganized that one would think, especially years ago. One of the bigger transitions was learning how to maneuver through that disorganization. There's so much going on in house, and so much time is required of players, coaches, and any staff there that often times as analyst off-site, you're still trying to find your own way to grow and support the team. Sometimes there just no time for heavy feedback from the coaches and there has been a lot of learning how to best support the coach, and players without having consistent face time. You learn to have the most impact you can, without demanding attention. That's a bit of a big difference from being the leader, shifting into that support role as well as. Oh and the time--the time requirements are much much more demanding here in the top level play. Even from an off-site role, its not really a job, its more of a life-style, as it is for those in-house. That's where the passion comes in, and if you have it, the work and effort feel very worth it, to be part of the team.

Ken Serra: TL is pushing to evolve the infrastructure (Steve has always been fond of being at the cutting edge of developing a system). Do you feel this sort of evolved system, budget permitting, with more staff is where other organizations should strive to be? Or is the 'best practices' aspect more important? What are your thoughts?

SnowSpots: I've always been one for an evolved infrastructure. After every split, I've written up thoughts on where to go next, how to improve, what can be done to create a better organized structure and improve feedback loops so that everyone who is a part of the team improvement aspect, from coaches to players, to analysts, managers, even interns can contribute to their best ability as is needed.

In the past, a lot has been pushed on the coaches and it's just been too much, they can't do everything, especially as being the primary one in charge of the players, and we can face it, they're still young. Having a Head Analyst, an organized structure for all our data, and having the ability to watch and be part of post-game for off-site members, are things I have pushed for after each split. Allowing your staff to not be overwhelmed and to have the proper resources and structure to function smoothly is something I think is extremely important. Just as a sports psychologist is good for the players to have at times for mentality, having a good mentality on the staff is just as important.

The "best practices" aspect is tied to that. If you don't have the structure to support the team and staff and utilize all the resources that you have available, then you won't have the best practices anyways. They won't be as productive as they could be, and at times they may even be detrimental to growth. Going into X situation starts way before that situation even occurs. You can't build a sturdy house without a strong foundation, so to say..

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