Zikz, Head Coach of 100 Thieves, gave TheGameHaus some insight into the end of Spring Split, team cohesion, coaching through COVID-19, and working with PapaSmithy. Here is a brief interview with him at the start of the 2020 LCS Summer Split.
Rob (TGH): What would you say was the biggest factor during your guys’ rise through the ranks towards the end of the split?
Zikz: I would just say, in general, our biggest advantage as a team is definitely our team’s willingness to be super open and honest with each other, and even themselves, to be able to improve at a fast rate. I think that in terms of our team that the biggest thing is just how fast we improve as a result of our environment and culture. And then, how much we are on the same page. Those are the two key things. I think that whenever you see a lot of mistakes that come from our team, a lot of it comes from individual mistakes, rather than it being as a team we fucked up this one thing. It’s more of we’re trying to do something, but one individual made the mistake, and that happens.
Rob (TGH): So do you feel like the team is starting to become more cohesive, coming together a lot more, because of your guys’ ability to work well as a team and point out those individual mistakes to fix?
Zikz: Yeah, I would say that we as a team have talked a lot, very specifically, about things to make sure that we are getting on the same page about every single thing that we do within the game. For example, like how we want to communicate as a team, how we want to play out early game, what are the roles that people have in the game, just everything. Like, when it comes to dragons how we’re going to play out dragons, to the point that we can play games without comms and fully be on the same page while playing.
Rob (TGH): Wow. That’s incredible. That’s like closing your eyes, basically [laughs].
Zikz: We need the eyes, we need the eyes. [laughs] We can do without the communication, for sure.
Rob (TGH): That is impressive. So then talk to me a little bit about COVID-19, specifically. You guys were seeming to gel well. How has it impacted your specific ability to coach? Have you found it to be harder or easier to coach remotely, versus in person?
Zikz: I mean, I think it goes without saying for a lot of people that this situation itself isn’t to make anything easier on anyone outside of making things more relaxing, because you’re doing everything from the comfort of your place of living. But, you know, that’s not always the most beneficial thing when it comes to productivity. You kind of like, at least for me, and a lot of the people I know and work with, focus is something that definitely comes from like a shift in changing where you are. So when I go to work, I have like a whole routine of what it’s gonna look like. I’m gonna sit at my desk, and then I’m understanding, you know, it’s work time. But when I get out of bed and sit at this desk, depending on the day, it’s work time or it’s, you know, relaxation just play games time.
So, it’s kind of hard to separate the two out, along with when you’re actually scrimming. You don’t get to see the people face to face, so you get less of a read exactly on how people are feeling, and how focused people are, and those are really big things for me, specifically. And, for our culture overall, because we set a pretty big, I guess, guideline of making sure people are focused. So, paying attention during all meetings, so people aren’t on their phones or on their second monitors, but these are all things that it’s really hard to maintain while the situation is currently happening and everyone is remote.
Rob (TGH): Absolutely. I’ve talked to Cody and Stunt before this, and with them being roommates they seem to be doing pretty well with everything that’s going on, but, as the coach are you feeling like you’re seeing the team still work well together? Are they still staying motivated, especially considering the Summer Split is the one that that really determines how far you guys can go?
Zikz: Yeah, I think we’re very aligned in our goal to go to Worlds this split. That’s definitely our results based goal. And, in terms of our actual productivity, I think that our productivity is still pretty high. When it comes to working from home, I just think overall it would be higher for sure, given the opportunity to go back to the facility and do do all of the basics properly. For example, one of the things that’s been happening recently is players find it hard to consistently wake up early, get a warm up game, and showers, and do early morning routines. But that’s something that we’ve been working on and looking to resolve to add a little bit more structure to people’s days, so that they come to scrims prepared.
Rob (TGH): Okay, okay. And I’m sure that you’re not the only one who’s trying to drive that boat and and that plays into my last question here. You and PapaSmithy have been able to work together now for a full split. And I just want to know, how have things changed? How have they stayed the same? Are you guys still feeling like the two of you are in good cohesion, as you talked about a little bit before last split?
This was an easy decision for me to make. From my first conversation with @PapaSmithy, I felt that we were on the same page and we knew what had to be done to build something great. I’m happy this announcement is finally out, let’s run it up! #100T https://t.co/mtFGFnVHQD
— Tony Gray (@Zikzlol) November 11, 2019
Zikz: Yeah I mean in terms of our goals for the things that we want out of the team. We’re definitely aligned. I think there will always be disagreements on very specific certain things. But for the most part, it’s so far been kind of a relationship of me having a lot of experience and PapaSmithy having a lot to learn within the space. But there’s been a lot more productivity, out of him, to make sure that he’s trying to find ways to improve the team and the program overall.