Team Liquid and the next generation of managing esports teams
There are many areas that classic sports fans will point to when dismissing esports as a real thing. Lack of physical activity, formal training schedules, or standardisation across games to name a few.
Trying to force esports into a box with traditional sport is a doomed venture, and the difference between those that understand this, and those who don't, is mostly generational. People who never grew up with video games see them as just that, games. However as time goes on, the validity of esports is getting more difficult to deny, even for the most vehement detractors. One of the reasons for this is may be due to what esports teams are beginning to borrow from mainstream sports teams.
The Status Quo
Esports teams traditionally live and train in 'Gaming Houses'. Usually large rural homes where players eat, sleep and train together. While it has proven effective thus far, it's often not a sustainable model for a professional team. Poor hygiene, a constant stream of junk food & energy drinks and shared living quarters do not result in rested, healthy and focused athletes.
Gaming Houses were indicative of their time in esports history. Companies had multiple players, often from abroad, that needed to live and train somewhere while being managed by a coach. Even if they were a winning team, the earnings were likely not enough to warrant individual housing and a separate training facility. Therefore one big house with a solid internet connection had to suit.
While many are still operating, the era of Gaming Houses is fading, and professional teams are slowly becoming able to move to concentrated facilities for training, while players live elsewhere. Thanks, in part, to the rise in the earnings of esports teams.
As is often the case, especially in esports, China are ahead of the curve. The OMG Training Facility in Shanghai is a gleaming, futuristic construction that wouldn't look out of place in Ready Player One.
Meanwhile on Earth
A slightly more sensible example is Team Liquid's Alienware Training Facility in Santa Monica, CA. With offices, meeting rooms, multiple scrim rooms (each with a dedicated replay room for players and coaches to go over plays in granular detail), and an open plan front office for the administration staff all under one roof, TL are taking a seriously professional approach to running their teams.
Naturally, every room is fully stacked with the latest Alienware hardware, with TL moving comfortably into their 6th year partnered with the tech manufacturing behemoth. The players can practice and analyse play in a cutting edge setting built just for them.
So with the gaming element handled, we can see what TL have taken from traditional sport - a keen interest in the health of the players. Gone are the garages brimming with truckloads of Monster Green, and the wheels of the gaming chairs will no more trundle over stacks of discarded pizza boxes - Liquid have an onsite chef, preparing healthy, balanced meals, tailored for the individual players' needs, and supplied regularly in accordance with their training schedule. This level of care taken with the players is a huge step in legitimising them as athletes in the eyes of the world. The psychological impact isn't to be overlooked. Players who know that their health is being prioritised to ensure the best performance on the field will consistently perform at a high standard.
A possible future
Training Facilities are expensive, and therefore not a viable option for all teams. They may even prove to be effective to the point of widening the skill gap between big and small teams. For now, any competitive edge a team may have is going to be noticed, analyzed and put into play by their rivals - expect to see a rise in these facilities over the next few years, sensible and otherwise. Who would've thought you could come out of Chef training and become a major figure in esports?
Photo source: David Chen/Dell