Friday, July 22, 2011
Interview with TSL Coach on Puma's Departure
Interview with Coach Lee from TSL
Please provide us with some more details regarding your decision to release PuMa from the team and PuMa’s decision to join EG (Evil Geniuses).
Shortly after his arrival from the US, PuMa was not himself and was seen frequently sighing for about three days as if he was stressed out. Naturally, I was concerned to see this coming from someone who had just won the NASL. This attitude continued even after we won our GSTL match a few days later. I had never seen this side of PuMa during the one year we were together. Sensing something strange was going on, I asked him repeatedly what was wrong, but he did not give me an answer. But he finally opened up to me the day after the GSTL match about his dilemma. At that point, I felt that he had already made up his mind to leave the team.
I am sure you were very displeased at that point.
Definitely. When FruitDealer and Tester decided to leave TSL, we agreed that we would do our best to keep the remaining team intact, play together, and perform our best … all the while not putting heavy pressure on tournament results. But after hearing this news from PuMa, I did not know what to think or how to react.
I am sure you tried to keep him from leaving. What kind of conversation have you two had during this whole process?
That he shouldn’t leave like this and that this was not an agreement made through the right channels, nor an official trade between two teams. I even told him that there will be a lot of negative feedback surrounding this, but he was adamant that he would be able to live through this negativity. He felt bad about his decision and told us that he knew a lot about the team (EG) already. Since we are bound to run into each other again in the future, we decided to part ways amicably.
You have announced that the team is currently in “rebuilding” mode. I would presume that this event caused some turmoil internally as well.
Having been blindsided by the news, we did not know how to react. SangHo and Clide were worried and it came to light that they were also approached similarly in the past.
Are you saying that some other TSL members were approached as well?
Yes, I found out through this whole ordeal. When SangHo and Clide were approached by other teams, they told me that they declined the offers due to their respect for TSL and the importance of continuing with the team that they originally started with. They thought it was best not to tell me since they thought it would cause unnecessary distractions and concerns.
Why do you think this happened?
I think foreign teams approach them due to their fan base. Clide has a lot of foreign fans … about 2 to 3 thousand Twitter followers that consists mostly of foreigners. SangHo does as well. It’s a lot of fans considering they haven’t won a major tournament yet. As for PuMa, I believe the offers came in due to his victory at NASL, but am just disappointed that he made such a big decision in such a short time.
Why do you think he made the decision to join EG?
I guess the environment has a lot to do with it, and by that I mean the state of the Korean pro-gaming scene for Starcraft 2. If PuMa was placed in Code S, I believe he would not have taken the deal. From the Korean player’s perspective, getting into Code S is hard, and winning the GSL is even harder, thus the door of opportunity is very narrow. Experiencing the foreign Starcraft 2 scene, and seeing first-hand the impact it has on a global level probably made him think that his accomplishment in Korea is small compared to what he is capable of doing in the foreign scene.
I sense that you are not satisfied with the Korean SC2 pro-gaming scene.
If I said I was satisfied I would be lying. The difficulty in getting placed in the GSL and the fact that we have no other leagues are some of my concerns.
So why didn’t you sign PuMa to a contract beforehand?At first, we wanted him on a contract, and so did the other teammates. But we did not feel it was necessary at the time since everyone showed so much passion and commitment. I trusted him, but now I am regretting my decision [to put off the contract] a little bit.
It seems like a lot of members have left TSL recently. Anything you would like to say about this?
Rain’s dad lives in New York and his dream has always been to go abroad. It was only after he left the team that he signed with Fnatic, so what happened with Rain is different from Puma’s situation. Part of the reason why Rain left originated from some of the issues that arised once our team entered into a “rebuilding” mode
What other issues did the team go through during this “rebuilding” phase?
TSL has not had a very good showing in tournaments so far this year, which lead to a decrease in number of members as well as sponsors. We initially cultivated a low pressure practice environment within our team, but we did not have good results in the tournaments. We had many members placed in Code S but none of them advanced far enough, which is why we decided to go into “rebuilding” mode. During this transitional process, FruitDealer and Tester preferred the low pressure environment, whereas the other team members felt it was best to incorporate a more rigid practice regimen. Due to poor showings in tournaments, the sponsorship funds decreased which naturally lead to pay cuts across the board. This whole incident lead to the eventual departure of FruitDealer and Tester, and Rain had trouble meshing with the other members due to the age difference (Rain being the youngest) on top of his desire to go abroad. If only we had accelerated our rebuilding phase, I believe Rain would have stayed with the team.
There are some rumors that there were salary issues with the players. What are your thoughts on this?
While I can’t give you the exact amounts, FruitDealer, Tester and Clide received a monthly salary from the team. Besides those three, the other members were on a stipend basis. After the rebuilding phase, Clide and SangHo returned the salaries / stipends that they received to provide some additional financial support for the whole team. We were very thankful for their gesture. Now that I think about it, our team was fairly quick in providing salaries compared to the others. Starcraft 2 was slow to catch on in Korea. On top of that, back then the economy was in a poor state and the sponsorship endowment was quite low. We were even in danger to losing our main team sponsor.
It seems like you should be taking appropriate measures to prevent this from happening again.
We are going to put everyone on a contract. Every team member has agreed to sign and no other player has a desire to leave the team.
What are the contract details?
First and foremost, we will be putting our 6 main players on a contract right away. The new recruits will eventually get onboard in the near future. We will be paying for all living expenses and focus on creating a favorable practice environment. As for the contract expirations, we are thinking about 1 year, but ultimately it will be tailored towards the players’ needs and wants.
I understand that there are very few sponsorship opportunities in the Korean market.
It has definitely become harder today than in the past due to poor tournament showings. I would like to take this time to thank our current sponsors for sticking with us through thick and thin. Some have even contacted us to tell us how much they appreciate our passion to do better and to wish us the best.
Anything you would like to say to the other teams?
I hope that the other teams don’t end up in a similar situation to us; furthermore, I would also like the players to understand some of these implications. It may not be easy to implement, but I hope to see standard agreements to become the norm when it comes to recruiting and having the rights to a player.
Some are putting the blame on your lack of coaching ability.
I agree to an extent, but this was really out of my control. Part of the blame lies on the systematic risks in terms of the bad economy and the small Korean SC2 fan base compared to SC1. Very few professional Korean SC2 players currently “enjoy” playing Starcraft 2 due to the small fan base. This needs to be solved in order for Starcraft 2 to flourish as an e-sport.
And how do you propose we solve this?
Our team’s mission has always been to promote the growth and popularity of Starcraft 2. We have published video tutorials and training videos for beginners, and so far, our first video received about 20,000 hits. We even purchased HD equipments to provide the viewers with quality content.
Any final words?
First of all, I would like to apologize to FruitDealer and Tester for not fulfilling what I’ve promised to do. Despite our differences, I really hope that they do well in their respective teams. I’d also like to thank my current players for believing in me and the team. Lastly, I would like to thank the foreign fans for their continued support.