For every game, the off season differs. For this article I will be basing the coaching on the most popular collegiate esports title “League of Legends.” The off season for League of Legends is a tricky thing to navigate for coaches. When competitive games stop being played, the patches cater more towards solo queue players. The meta shifts to a spot that you know it will not be in come the next season. So, what is a coach to do when he knows this?
What was challenging for me was that my first time being a coach during the off season was the off season before Riot’s collegiate tournament started. I had a new team and no meta to base my coaching on, it was challenging. It taught me a lesson that every collegiate coach needs to hear. Your team’s identity should come from within, not form copying a pro team. No matter the meta, a coach should be able to identify in his players what kinds of play styles they’re good at. In professional League of Legends, strategies tend to stick around while the champions or characters that are used to execute these strategies differ.
The off season doesn’t have to be a slog of waiting for a random small tournament like the Kespa Cup to give you an idea of what pro teams are doing and immediately start copying their strategies. Collegiate teams are also just not as good as the professional teams. Their strategies are designed in the context that they’re being executed by the top players in the world. Collegiate players are fantastic competitors, but they’re not pro yet.
For me, finding my team’s identity first started with getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the players. This came from watching their scrims, it wasn’t hard to see what features of their gameplay stood out. The next step is what requires true game knowledge. Being able to take their strengths and weaknesses and finding a strategy that can highlight your strengths and hedge your weaknesses. I’ve already warned against blindly following your favorite team’s strategy but finding a pro team that has similar strengths is a great place to start in building your own strategy.
Use the off season as a time for experimentation. Focus on macro strategies rather than nailing down a champion pool. Communication, organization, practice routines, and play style are all things that don’t require a defined meta to practice. A coach can be just as active in the off season as they are during the normal season.