An introduction to Behind The Lanes
Hello everyone, this is Samo, the current manager of Sigma.int, and some of you might recognize me from my past work for both Absolute Legends, & Flip.Sid3 Tactics. I’ve always contemplated the idea of starting a blog that showcases what happens behind the scenes in the competitive Dota 2 world, something that let’s people know how things exactly work so they can have a better understanding of everything. However, I have never gotten around to doing it till now, I do believe that this is something that is rarely discussed, maybe people don’t care enough about it but I believe it’s worth my time anyways. In this first post I will be discussing the nature of a manager’s tasks -despite how variable they can be- and will be shedding some light on some of the organization’s perspectives when it comes to acquiring new teams and players.
So what exactly do you do??
I can’t recall how many times I have been asked this question whenever someone knows that I’m a pro team’s manager, this of course happens most often when I’m playing pubs with a tag on -after being called a fakenicker/wannabe then explaining that I’m merely a manager-.
There is no one way to define a manager’s role, so we’re going to have to class managers into two cases : 1 – A manager which was appointed to a team after the team has been completely formed, and 2 – A manager (most often employed by an organization) looking to acquire a new team or form a new one from scratch.
First, let’s discuss the first case which is the most common, in this situation either one player or a group of players assemble a new team after numerous tryouts and plans, and then they start looking to appoint a manager. A manager’s tasks are pretty simple and they can be summed as follows :
Schedule managing; this is by far the most important task any manager has after the team has been fully assembled, this task extends from noting down match times on a calendar to managing and knowing every player’s personal schedule to make sure there is no conflict when scheduling a match in a tournament. This task is by far the most time consuming, it requires you to be online -mostly on skype- just about everyday to keep up with all the different tournaments and match dates, conflicts often arise, especially when you’re managing a team with 5 working/studying players which has always been the case for me.
Tournament Seeking; this one is a process you only have to go through if your team is not one of the top ones in the scene at the moment, it includes always being on the lookout for new tournaments, whether it be through contacts, or web surfing. There are many tournaments -usually for small teams- that are via sign-up and qualifiers, and not invites, you have to actively search for those. There’s also a small part of this task involved for managers of top teams, it includes looking at all the different invites you have, pitching it to the players and making a choice of which to accept together.
Booking; if the team is about to go to a LAN, it’s the manager’s task to organize the flights, the accommodation, and even the daily transport/food fees. This is a task that involves you working directly with the organization in case of a sponsoring party. It sounds pretty easy but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen first hand mistakes happen in this area, and 100% of the time so far it’s been on the organization’s part, sometimes copying and pasting a player’s name whilst buying a ticket can be too hard it seems. (N.B. : This happened during my time at aL, where the ever-so-loved CEO wrote Ryze’s name as Christian instead of Christoffer, even though I gave it to him right before, Ryze had to pay 900 euros to get a last minute ticket, and it was refunded by aL after a couple of months. Those few letters were worth 900 euros!)
LAN Duty; I’ll be honest, this is one task I do not know much about, I’m by far the worst manager ever when it comes to this particular task. I have never accompanied any of my teams to a LAN just yet, but it’s out of my hands, due to being Egyptian, and having army duty ‘waiting’ for me I can not leave the country, and even when I could the acquiring the visa part was way harder than I thought. However, this is a pretty obvious task, you accompany the team and make sure everything is going according to plan, you’re always ready to solve any problem that may arise.
Morale Managing; this is probably a task that many managers try to accomplish, but it’s not that easy, and in my experience, a manager can not do so much about it. What a manager NEEDS to do however, is reading the team’s current morale, even if it’s not easy to affect it or improve it, you must be able to read the team chemistry and assess it, whether it’s just to yourself, the team’s captain, or to your organization. The first time I ever managed was that rather eccentric Absolute Legends line-up with CWM,freezer,Vigoss,God, and MaNia; this team had by far the worst morale I’ve seen so far, I was stupid enough to keep trying on making this team work (I’ll explain in a later post why), but the correct decision was the one made eventually, ditching everyone but MaNia.
Public Relations; many managers do not include this as one of their tasks, I personally think this is one of the biggest tasks a manager should be taking care of. This is essentially representing your team publicly, especially on the various social media and Dota 2 portals. You don’t have to manage things like facebook/twitter accounts yourself but a manager should oversee those things, and always be ready to explain things transparently to the public, in case of your average drama fit that occurs every now and then.
Sponsor Seeking; if this team is not already sponsored, then the number one task is seeking an adequate sponsor for this team. This is a very long process that works exactly like getting a sponsor for anything else, you need to assess your team and be able to properly present exactly what they offer, estimate what they deserve and start using every single contact you have till you can find a suitable organization or sponsor to help support your team.
This pretty much sums it up, it’s really not that hard of a task but most of us are volunteers and it requires you to either really love esports, or be a gigantic fanboy, and I’m both.
I will now briefly discuss the added tasks of a manager who works for an organization that has no team and is looking to acquire a new team or form a new one player by player, this has happened many times in Dota 2 before, and it seems to often fail. When an organization has had a team and decided to let it go or the team has left, the previous manager or a new manager is appointed most of the time to go through this process. The manager has to keep a very awake eye on the scene to know exactly what’s going on, who’s a free agent and who’s not, what new teams are being formed right now, etc…
A manager gathers a list of possible options and presents them to the organization, with what is basically a pros and cons list for each option, and together they make the call, which brings us to the next part of this first article;
How does an organization pick between teams?
While I do believe that this is not the hardest of things to figure out, I’ve seen so many people bedazzled at organization’s choices uttering things like “Why did they pick that ‘trash’ team over ‘x’ team??!!!!!1111onecos(0)”, so I’m going to go through it as briefly as I can.
There’s essentially nothing more important to an ordinary organization than 1 – pleasing their current sponsors, and 2 – acquiring new sponsors; it’s a business after all and we need to be realistic. Since most sponsors are looking to advertise a certain product or service, the more exposure a certain team gets, the better they are going to be. With that in mind, here’s a list of what an organization looks at, and most often in this order :
Fans : this is by far the number one deciding factor for an active organization, the more the fans the more sponsors, it doesn’t get simpler than this. This is assessed through stream viewers, facebook likes, and twitter followers. During my time in eSports I have seen so many players neglect this part of the business, and only focus on their gameplay, which really isn’t very smart. I personally speculate if we were to offer any big organization back in 2013 a chance to sign No Tidehunter (before they started winning everything), or a team with SingSing+4, the latter would be the obvious choice.
Stability : The hardest aspect to predict, yet one of the most important. It doesn’t matter how many fans the team has, if it can’t hold itself for more than a couple of months before stirring drama, and/or having a roster change.
Results : Yes, I did put this as the third priority, obviously if the team is top 3 TI it’s higher than this priority, but aside from the very top teams, your results do not matter as much as any of the two points above.
I fear I have bored you too much already, I realize this isn’t the most exciting of blogs, I just truly felt like I needed to start informing people more, I’ve been asked a lot about how one person can get into eSports or what kind of jobs are available out there. I’m sorry if my writing is not that great at the moment, hopefully I’ll improve and be able to articulate posts better over time. In the next post, I will be discussing my ‘managerial journey’ from how I became a manager, through every team I’ve managed, and where I am now. As you may have noticed I’m not going to sugarcoat things, be it about players or organizations, and I plan to continue my blog this way.
This blog represents my own thoughts. I definitely want to get some feedback so I can improve and hopefully shed some light on the things people really want to know about when it comes to esports organizations and management.