Ad Matai

Ram Djemal
I don’t think I could ever be an authoritarian figure; the kind of person who makes it a case of ‘what I say goes’. I don’t think that’s the right approach to coaching.

I like to think I know something about player management and making them feel comfortable seeing as I was in their position once upon a time.

I had a few bad coaches during my playing career, and I’ve tried to avoid making the same mistakes that they did.

There’s this special bond that makes me want to be friends with my players, and I feel like it can be achieved as long as you retain a certain level of respect.

That’s not always easy to do once people remember my ‘Red Buff moment’. It’s one of those infamous moments that people don’t reference as often much anymore, but it will never be truly forgotten.

Selfmade likes to bring it up a lot. Even when I tell him something really simple like “I think you should move here,” he’ll instinctively reply: “Nah, I’m good bro, you died to red buff!” There’s no comeback to that.

On a serious note, that moment defined my career for a little bit, but I’ve since used it to motivate myself to do better. I like to look back at my failures as my biggest motivators.

I’m the kind of person that, whenever I make a mistake, I will never ever forget it. The Red Buff moment was one of many moments which shaped me into who I’ve become today.

I respect all of my players, and we joke all the time – we banter non-stop and I like the lightheartedness of it – but when it comes down to it, I think of them all very highly and respect them. I hope they feel the same way.

I still think I struggle when it comes to putting distance between myself and my players; I just feel like we’re all going through the same thing together.

I can’t be like my commanders in the army. I’m not sure how you can do that.

When I was in the army, I was never in any combat situation – I was more of a desk guy – but there were still many scary situations. Being from Israel, you learn that conflict can erupt at any moment.

I did a lot of guard duty with commanders, and I was stationed several times near potential areas of conflict. I remember this one particular moment, in a shelter with my commanders and my fellow soldiers – my friends – when we heard missiles going off outside.

That stuff happened, and you can feel it.

I wanted to do my service, but war was not for me.

Basic training was really rough psychologically, I was affected by it greatly. I’m not afraid to say that I actually cried during my first training session. I simply wasn’t prepared for it.

It’s common for soldiers to break down; it’s the shock of being thrown in at the deep end.

After a while, it became easier – but still, it wasn’t fun. The food sucks, you don’t sleep and you’re constantly exhausted.

The number one thing I took away from being in the army is that, when you’re in the shit, no matter what it is, you have to develop bonds and keep going.

There’s this common phrase in the Israeli army: ‘ad matai’.

It means ‘until when.’ It’s a common phrase amongst soldiers: ‘Until when do I have to be here?’

That phrase brought a lot of us together, and you feel a strong sense of companionship. I know they’re not enjoying their life, and I’m not enjoying mine, but at least we’re doing it together so let’s laugh about it for a bit.

The best moments were when we were just sat in our beds, listened to music and cracking jokes. I still talk to some of the people that had basic training with me.

When you have to go through something together, whether it be good or bad, the companionship is always there; it has to be. That’s how I feel when I’m part of a team.

I always make sure, even in struggling teams, that the level of companionship and the environment is good. Nothing will ever improve if you hate where you are and what you’re doing.

If you hate waking up, going to and doing work, you’ll never get good at it.

That mindset is one of the most important things a coach can provide for their team, far more important than simply teaching players macro.

The players are all smarter than you 90 percent of the time anyway: they’re the ones playing the game every hour of every day.

However, they don’t necessarily think about the right thing to do during specific moments of the game because they have a lot to focus on at once. That’s where a coach comes in.

You stand behind them and nudge them to make the right macro play – like pushing a wave or warding a bush. They know it; in fact, they could look at the screen when they aren’t playing, and they will say the same thing.

Being a coach doesn’t mean that you’re smarter than the players – often they actually know better.

What a coach should do is direct players to use that brainpower in the right way, in a disciplined way, and provide a good environment in which for them to grow.

You don’t want to train robots – ‘follow X procedure Y times’ – you want them to already know the right play to make every single time.

I’ve heard coaches say that coaching is a self-destructive job… and there’s some truth in that.

In the best case scenario, you are useless to those players, because they know everything and they can do it each and every time.

You’re constantly teaching them to be better off without you.

But that’s the thing: they’re without you every time they go on stage. When you walk off the stage, you aren’t with them anymore. They need to be as smart or smarter than you at that moment.

That’s what coaches train their players for.

And there is no dread in it: if you can reach that point then you have succeeded as a coach. Maybe not directly, but you were part of developing a player to a point where he doesn’t need you anymore.

I was given this role because I was the academy coach and it made sense – I’ll do whatever I can to make sure my players succeed.

I’ll keep going, until, hopefully, I reach that point where I can no longer benefit my players.

Ad matai.

Image Credit: Riot Games & SK Gaming

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