mouz NXT sycrone on WePlay Academy League: “It is a very good first step into a competitive career"
WePlay Academy League crowned its first champion this past Sunday in Kyiv. mouz NXT took home the trophy and $45,000 after a marvelous first season run in which they came first in the online group stage and then traveled to their first-ever LAN prepared to showcase their youngsters' skills.
Despite being the top seed team from the groups, mouz NXT weren't considered the most dominant team heading into the LAN playoff. However, once they locked it the LAN spot, the organization went far and beyond to secure their super young team the full experience of a pro team.
From a very structured bootcamp that featured a very well thought out practice schedule and regime, to even creating a LAN simulation for the players, the five talents were given in the two months since they got signed all the facilities a top tier team is supposed to have.
mouz NXT roster:
coach: Dennis “Sycrone” Nielsen
Ahead of mouz NXT’s upper bracket finals in Kyiv, Ukraine, we had the chance to talk to Dennis "sycrone" Nielsen, who took the coach role and who for the past two months worked to shape the five players from online and local events talents into true title contenders.
Last night’s clean sweep over Young Ninjas wasn’t just the players’ first big victory, but also a clear indicator that sycrone’s method and the tools provided by mousesports fully worked and we were fortunate to hear from him directly what the whole training regime was comprised of. We also talked about the future of the CS:GO academy system, about what it takes to refresh the professional scene and how a fully developed academy ecosystem would help the professional scene as a whole.
Hello sycrone and thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, although I'm sure you are pretty busy with prepping the mouz NXT youngsters for their upcoming match on the stage. So, let me start this interview by asking if there is any difference in how you approach your work as a coach when having to prepare up and coming players with no LAN experience.
Yes, there is a big difference between working with well-established players and youngsters. For me personally, it's not like I've worked with the most established players. In my career, I have played with guys like Frederik "acoR" Gyldstrand, who is on the main team right now, or Nicklas "gade" Gade, who is with BIG now. Some years ago I played with Emil "Magisk" Reif, who is on Astralis now, but I've never played with someone who is at the very top level.
However, on the side of coaching mouz NXT, I also coach Counter-Strike at a school in Denmark, and I do notice that the young players have a more open mindset. They take the criticism better, they really just want to improve, to grow. So, I'm looking at this as a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset and I think it is important that you are coachable.
I also think that in time, once you start to achieve something, maybe you win a few tournaments, a Major, you start to become a little stubborn and you think that you know exactly how to approach and how to play the game. That's something that holds a lot of players back from making a comeback perhaps, or getting back to the shape they used to be in. Some of these players have a really fixed mindset. They are not open to change, and I think that's something you really need as a player.
I might get a bit philosophical here, but I do really think that what's holding people back is not the age, when we speak about for how long can you keep your career going, but it's the fact that you are not able to stay passionate about the game, you are not able to reinvent yourself. I don't think that reaction time or anything like this is what really matters, but rather the fact that you are not able to make a new self for this year or for these coming months, this coming tournament.
There is a continuous discussion around the need for a true Academy program, platform, something sustainable and built for the long run. So, I have to ask you, who are directly involved and see and understand better than us, from directly working with the mouz NXT roster. Has this event made a mark, did it help your players?
Definitely. The guys are extremely excited to be here and the media coverage, the arena, everything is totally a different experience from what they are used to. A few of them have not even played on LAN before this. Dorian "xertioN" Berman, for example, is from Israel and he has played two local events and he's never been on a stage before.
Most of the other guys had never played on an international LAN event before and they learn just now about everything else that you have to do at a LAN besides playing the game. The media day that you have to go through, the post-game interviews, before the game interviews for the broadcast. The cameras that are on you, the lights, all these things are very new to them and make the pressure and the excitement to play feel a bit different from how it is to play from home, in your local league.
Competing in an event like WePlay Academy League is a very good first step into a competitive career, because that's what you will do when you will be a pro. You will go to tournaments all the time, you will have to be able to perform in that environment.
I only hope that this will last, that it will really become a thing and I'm saying this because four years ago I played for the North Academy team, but they had to close both divisions because there was no space for an academy team. You couldn't participate in a tournament with both teams, of course, and there was no ecosystem to help the organizations keep an academy roster. Thinking about that now, it's a bit interesting because I was playing back then against the Fnatic Academy team, which featured Maikil "Golden" Kunda Selim, who is now coaching the current Fnatic Rising roster.
Do you guys practice with mousesports, with the main team, and if you do, how is that going, do they give you any kind of input, any advice after a match?
We do practice against the main team, of course. I would say that over the past two months since we are a team, we had about 6-8 practice games against them, and usually, we also practice against other top teams. Of course, when you practice against these other top teams, they won't be messaging you to say, "hey, you are very easily readable on this kind of strategy or this situation."
But, when it comes to our main team, me and the mousesports coach, Torbjørn "mithR" Nyborg, we talked a little bit back and forth. However, for now, we haven't been able to go as in-depth with the things that having two teams allows you to. That's because we, mouz NXT, have been here only for the past two months, we also had the summer break, the main team had also the Extreme Masters XVI - Cologne tournament, now they have the ESL Pro League, so there hasn't really been time to sit down and think how exactly can we utilize the fact that we have two teams.
So far, I and Torbjørn had only time to discuss a little bit about how we should enter strats, how we should analyze the opponents, how do we set up the daily routines, and things like that.
So with the main team so busy recently, how did mouz NXT prepare for this LAN stage of the WePlay Academy League?
Before coming here we've been on a bootcamp in Hamburg, at the mouseports headquarters and we had a very good, fruitful time I would say. That's mainly because the main team has been there so many times before, also with different roster iterations of the roster and they figured out how you can set up a good bootcamp that includes both practice and teambuilding.
For example, we included something that's called "the must-win practice" where we tried to create tournament-like conditions for the players. We put up lights, we had cameras, all the players had to play in the jerseys, have clean tables all the time, I walked behind the guys, instead of staying on the coaching PC, etc. We tried to create everything exactly like it is at the tournament, we pumped ourselves up, we made a soft game plan, and tried to simulate the LAN mindset up as close to what it would be at the tournament.
So, after everything that you've been doing with them between the group stage, where you also placed first, and the LAN playoffs, where you are in the upper bracket finals at the time we have this chat, would you say that you did expect this kind of result?
Yes, I was expecting us to do well. Talking about the group stage results, I would say that although we ended first, it wasn't too easy. If you look at the round differences, we had a +30 something score and Young Ninjas, who finished second, had a +60 score so the games that we won were much closer than the games Young Ninjas played. I think they dominated way more than we did in the second half of the tournament, they even beat us pretty convincingly one time. But coming to the LAN we do have some players pretty experienced from playing on local events, like Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek and Hubert "szejn" Światły, who played in Poland. Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás has also played a few local LANs in Hungary and Jon "JDC" de Castro has played German championships, so for sure we have more players with some LAN experience than most of the teams here.
You mentioned the track record with Young Ninjas and the fact that in the group stage, they actually did super well. Are you nervous going up against them here, on LAN?
No, not at all. I'm just excited to play against them, because I've seen our guys in practice throughout the last two weeks and they've been playing amazingly. I think this is the time when we will showcase that we are much better than we were in the group stage.
Should the players on the main teams be a bit afraid that some super young, but super-skilled player might just be pulled to the main roster and replace someone from there just like that?
I'm sure that this will be pretty much the reality sooner or later. Part of making an academy team is to create the next superstars for your main team. Just bringing one guy from the academy roster to the main team means that you didn't have to buy a player from somewhere else and that alone is worth the cost of having an academy team. The reality is that buying players right now is so expensive and the players on the main teams should be aware of this being a possibility. In this regard, it is just like in sports. If there is someone coming up and they are performing better than you over a period of time, and they prove themselves, then you should be aware that they could take your spot. You should never feel safe and get comfortable if you are sitting in a good team. You should be always working your ass off looking to constantly improve.
So, an academy program should also be a motivational factor for the main teams as well.
What if another team spots the next superstar and snatches him from you after you spent time and invested resources in growing that player?
We just started the NXT project and everyone has a running contract, so I don't see this as a danger right now. Also, players themselves must accept a trade like that. If the player doesn't want to go play somewhere, it just won't happen.
With that in mind, I would like to thank you again for your time and to wish you the best of luck in the future with the young guys. Any shout-out that you might want to make at the end of our interview?
Yeah, a big shout-out to mousesports for making it happen, the whole roster, the bootcamp, all the facilities around the team. We couldn't be here without them and also a shout-out to WePlay Esports for setting up a tournament like this, which is probably what made mousesports go into this in the first place.
headline picture courtesy of WePlay Holding