They act in the background, are unknown to most fans and still have a large share in the success of the team - coaches like the South Korean kkOma play an important role in the professional world of League of Legends. But what makes him a good coach and how did he actually become a successful coach?
Kim Jeong-gyun should be visually familiar to many fans who have been following the best teams in the world for several years. At a young age kkOma first tried to establish himself as a Starcraft player in the eSport scene. However, when he repeatedly failed to establish himself among the world's best, he dared to switch to a new game - League of Legends.
The Korean was talented and didn't look too bad as a jungler on Team StarTale. Even if kkOma was able to keep up with the top, the team missed its goals and was disbanded after only one year. Fortunately, a new possibility arose at the same time.
kkOma still has characteristics that are generally not ascribed to every gamer: He is charming, can articulate himself selectively and exudes a certain amount of self-confidence. In 2012, immediately after the second setback as a player, an ambitious organization was launched with SK Telecom T1, which relied on young and highly talented stars from the solo cue scene. Faker, Bengi, Impact and others. Bristled with playful class - but their personalities still needed fine-tuning.
This is where kkOma came in. In addition to tactical and analytical tasks, the new coach was responsible for the personal development of the young talents from the reserve team. The aim was to impart social skills, to strengthen the self-confidence of his new protégés and, in general, to form a real team.
Only one year after kkOma's entry, the second team from SKT managed to establish itself in Korea's top and achieve better results than the first guard. In 2013, the bosses of the organization relied on the young and wild like Faker and Coach kkOma. When the summer split was finally won by the team that had been founded just a year and a half earlier, the still shy teenagers suddenly found themselves in the focus of numerous fans.
This fact understandably took on even more extreme features when Korea's new hope for the 2013 Worlds won the title. Faker and his young teammates overran the competition, and within a few weeks, silent lone fighters had turned into a team that enjoyed communicating.
Of course, the path wasn't always easy. kkOma, Faker and the rest of the young team went through a development process that included setbacks. After a weak summer split in 2014, the reigning world champion did not qualify for the Worlds - from the point of view of the extremely hardworking and always meticulous coach, a disaster.
One of the consequences of the failure was that kkOma made the decision in spring 2015 to opt for a new mid laner. Easyhoon replaced Faker, Korea's most hopeful talent had to sit in the background on the reserve bench in most of the season's games. Just in time for the Worlds, however, the star player regained his regular place and literally turned it up. Up to and including the final, however, SKT's opponents could never really be sure which mid laner would be in the line-up - kkOma's move with a six-man regular team worked perfectly.
When SKT even managed to defend the title the following year, kkOma was also at the peak of success. No coach could even begin to keep up with the South Korean's successes. The former Starcraft player was valued for his professional and human strengths - not only by his own team, but also by numerous competitors. Even today, many trainers from the LEC, for example, name him when asked about their role model.
Clear speeches, honest words and always an open ear for his boys. In addition, hours of analytical studies and meticulous preparation for the coming opponent: kkOma was and is a hard worker with unusually high social skills. Of course, he was also responsible for the next two years, when the focus was on rejuvenating the squad. While the success was there in 2017 and there was only Samsung Galaxy between SKT and the third title win at the Worlds in a row, in the eyes of the fans it was not a good year.
SKT missed the qualification for the Worlds, which of course represented a setback for the successful team. The attempt to provide Faker with highly talented talents without significant experience at the highest level and still celebrate the usual successes failed. kkOma took much of the blame and vowed to get well soon.
At the end of 2018, the successful trainer took on a new position: head coach, which basically represented a kind of manager and squad planner. He recruited Teddy, Khan, Clid and Mata in order to be able to attack again at the top with proven stars. The new team won the spring and summer split nationally and at least fought their way to the semi-finals at the MSI and the Worlds.
When the cult coach's contract expired in autumn 2019, SK Telecom T1 was, as usual, interested in an extension. kkOma rejected the contract with a rumored seven-figure annual salary, however, as he was looking for a new challenge, according to his own statements. This ended the probably greatest and definitely most successful era of a coach in the professional world of League of Legends.
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