Liquid Analytics with Coach Yaltz

October 09 2019

Over the years the scene has grown and moved far beyond the confines of Phreak’s basement. With the sold out stadiums and unprecedented viewership came the need to develop a structure and support system for these teams to thrive and keep up with the competition. Yaltz has been through it all when it comes to growing the scene. From guiding players through small amateur tournaments to leading the charge in a franchised league he has witnessed all levels of progress and developed unbelievably valuable experience along the way.

Luckily, he was able to set some time aside from his busy schedule and have a chat with us.

Interview With Yaltz

To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career up to this point?

I have always played a lot of games. I was really into Dota for a few years and began playing League in 2011, I believe. I remember I used to just hop on and play to get a first win bonus then would go back to Dota. In 2012 I started playing more and reached a pretty respectable rank then in 2013 I hit Challenger for the first time.

At that time I was also competing with friends in small tournaments. In late 2014, early 2015, I moved to another city and was without internet for three months so I couldn’t really play. Back when I played I chose to Support and was a very strong shot caller. That helped me transition to a coaching position since I had good coms and a lot of game knowledge.
After a few months when I had internet and was playing again a friend called me asking to help with their team Big Gods, later to be known as Big Gods Jackals in the NACS, who was competing in a LAN tournament. After how they saw me work with the team they asked me to be their Coach and I worked with them for a while in Brazil’s version of the Challenger series until we qualified for the main League.

After my time with Big Gods I accepted an offer with a Latin America South team and I stayed in that region for most of 2016. At that time the scene was still really getting on its feet and it was actually even their first year with a studio.
I worked with LAS for some time and later transitioned to a Latin America North team based in Mexico. That granted me the opportunity to have my guys scrim a lot of North American teams leading to me learning a lot about how these NA teams worked as well as their structure.

At the time in most of the wildcard regions structure was severely lacking. Usually, there was just one coach, no analysts and minimal support from the organization. Interacting with these North American teams really opened my eyes to how effective these proper support systems are. This led to me taking my first opportunity with Team Liquid in 2017 as a positional coach for Jungle and later Support.

It was a great experience and I learned a lot, though I did make the decision to transfer to paiN gaming back in Brazil. I worked with paiN for a while and later transitioned to Havan Liberty where I was for over a year. With Havan Liberty I really worked on building it from the ground up taking what I have learned through my various environments and applying it to set up a very strong and stable structure for them to thrive. From there I have returned here to Team Liquid as the Head Coach for our Academy team.

Do you feel the experience on different teams and in different regions helped build you up to where you are today?

Yeah, for sure! As I mentioned earlier a lot of my prior experiences are with environments that have a lack in structure. In order for things to work in those types of environments you have to fill other roles as well. It made me have to adapt and move beyond my game knowledge and touch on things that might be suited more towards what a Sports Psychologist, Analyst or a plethora of other things may do. This vast array of responsibilities really improved my ability to be a problem solver and helped me know what to look for in different scenarios. Now that I am in a very strong and structured environment it has definitely increased my efficiency and ability to work with individuals in these other positions.

Not to mention the different environments I have immersed myself in has really helped me grow and mature as a person. So, that helps a lot as well.

Very frequently it seems that a lot of the former players who move into these analytical roles had strengths as a shot caller and often they appear to be unproportionately Junglers or Support players. Do you think there is any correlation to that or is it all just by chance?

I think that, in general, players from specific roles tend to have similar personalities. Supports, in general, are not necessarily the best mechanically but they tend to have better map and situational awareness as well as better communication skills. Those skills in particular really transition well to analytical and coaching roles.

I came into coaching with no real coaching experience so that skill set allowed me to focus more on learning to coach properly rather than spending a lot of time studying and trying to read the game. It made the transition to coaching much easier.

You have been a coach for quite some time now. I feel the community is very black and white in terms of their understanding of what coaches do and at times fail to look beyond champ select. How would you describe what a coach does?

I think it’s really different from team to team and coach to coach. Some coaches have a very good understanding of the game and that is their focus. There are also some coaches that will assist with other skills and things you need to learn. Some may have a good way of going about maintaining a good environment on the team and keeping the team motivated while another person may focus on game knowledge aspects.

At the highest level there isn’t really much need for a coach to instruct these veteran players on how to play the game as they already have that down. Instead they will focus on ways of keeping everybody on the same page and set up a system where the players play as a cohesive unit rather than five individually strong players playing their own game.

The job of a coach changes a lot depending on the team. A good coach needs to be able to maintain a lot of different skills. You need to be able to help with maintaining a good team environment, assist with personal things, provide a separate unbiased view on things and so much more. That part of the job is why I am thankful for my experience in the wildcard regions were structure isn’t there and you are more so forced to fill multiple roles to be successful.

What do your days consist of?

A normal work day for me would be to have a meeting at the start of the day. There we would show the players anything necessary to establish a goal for the day and set out what all we want to practice. From there we usually have the practice in scrim blocks with reviews after each game, again focusing on our particular goal for the day. After the scrims we go over the day, other things we should work on and establish goals specifically for individual players to work on or practice. After all of that I will usually prepare something for the next day.

But this can always fluctuate and change. An example would be if we were to go into playoffs we would play more scrim games with shorter reviews between them. These reviews would be focusing on the next game to at least mildly emulate game day.

On game day we usually start the day with a meeting discussing what we are doing and different scenarios we may face. These being in terms of the draft or something particular the team we are playing does. We usually have a couple of warm up games and then play the game after.

I would say that during the week we usually work on our specific goals and shortly before game day we will cater our practice towards the team we are playing. I don’t like to have my people focus on the specific team we are playing all week. I feel focusing on improving ourselves first and then addressing the specific conditions of the upcoming game shortly before is a proper balance.

From my understanding you are helping the main team with the analytical side of things while they compete at Worlds. What kind of responsibilities have you been tasked with?

Basically, they want to understand what other teams are doing. The team is practicing their side of things to improve themselves, and I am assisting the analysts prepare for the other teams. My role is basically guiding the analysts on specific things they should be looking for with these different teams and helping format their notes into what would be most effective for Dodo and Cain to understand and work off of.

Analysts are another role that the community seems to know about, but may not fully understand. How would you describe what the analysts do?

So, the job of an analyst to word it simply is to identify patterns. It gets pretty complex when you really dive into just how much they look through.You see, they will analyze ward locations, jungle pathing and proximity tendencies, habits that the team and/or players may have at all stages of the game, what the team is doing in different draft rotations and situations among so many other things.

In what ways do the two bounce off each other and work together?

Essentially, the analyst will gather all of their patterns and data regarding the other teams, as well as our own team, and present that to the coaches. From there they will look for things to exploit, what goals to set, things to be wary of and so on.

Do you have anything you feel is important to add, or might be beneficial to someone who wishes to pursue coaching?

I would really stress the importance of developing a lot of diverse skills. Having an understanding that goes beyond game knowledge and involves the many different roles that go into making a team tick will do nothing but benefit you with that type of position.

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