A Year in the LCS - Did G2 need a break?
With the recent admission of G2 Esports that they didn't practice full time prior to the Mid-Season Invitiational, there has been plenty of discussion about the schedules of LCS teams. The EU LCS, including regular season and playoffs, lasted 14 weeks (1-14 to 4-17). During this time G2 had three "off" weeks; one for IEM, one between regular season and playoffs, and their first round bye. This was followed by a two week break, during which time they had to prepare for and travel to Mid-Season Invitational. This schedule does not allow for the off-time traditional sports include in their own intense practice schedules.
The problem with this crowded schedule is that athletes work and train harder than the average person. Many workers only have three-four weeks of vacation time, but they also only work 40 hours a week with the weekend off. LCS teams typically only have one off day, with four days of practice and two of games. Practice and team activities may only last 8 hours, but players need to work on individual skills as well. This leads to an usustainable practice schedule. One that could break all but the exceptionally competitive athlete.
Of course, this isn't an excuse for eSports professionals. Thats just the price of being an athlete - especially if they want to be the best. Tom Brady, four time Super Bowl champion and quarterback of the New England Patriots, is famous for starting his individual workouts and training before 6 AM every morning. He diets all year, and "vacations" still include physical and mental training.
One part of this, for the major US sports at least, is a long off-season break. This gives players time off, away from their games, and helps prevent burnout after the toil of a long season. Players also have a chance to work on their fundamental skills, since much of the season is spent working as a team preparing for specific opponents. This hard work - long offseason model isn't replicated in esports. Teams may get more random breaks during the year; but they don't have a long offseason, or at least the best teams won't. The world elite that make the World Championship and are invited to Third Party tournaments, like IEM are lucky to get even a few continuous weeks before their respective regional leagues kick back into gear. All three NA professional leagues studied (NFL, NBA, MLB) had a 14+ week offseason break; LCS teams were lucky to get 6. Which makes every week of break that much more valuable.
Of course, there aren't always strict parallels between traditional sports and eSports. Physical athletes need time to let their bodies physically recover from the rigors of intense training and the fundamentals mentioned can be worked on in stimulating ways, outside of the strict practice environment of their sport. In eSports, players risk back and wrist problems. But many of these can be curbed or completely avoided through stretches and changes in posture. Furthermore these cyber athletes need to hone their individual skills in the server. While they may not be scrimming, it is difficult to translate mechanical mastery over ever changing in-game interactions from other activities.
Dividing a year into 52 week, Data was gathered for an LCS team and an OGN team giving their schedules in 2013 and 2015. To compare, the championship teams in three sports (NFL, NBA, MLB) are also shown with their known schedules. The schedule is color coded, showing the extent of the playoffs for each team (top teams were selected).
Nonetheless, with G2 as the most recent example, eSports teams are opting for off-time more and more. While G2 represents one of the most recent League of Legends examples of a team valuing mental health via time off over peak form, this is a trend that has become more prevelant in esports with tournament circuits, like Na'Vi choosing to not attend CEVO 9 Finals. Despite this, G2 have found the ire of Europe and abroad as the representatives of their region at the Mid-Season Invitational. Moving forward, Riot may be pressed to add more time-off for their competitors.