Riot hinted the news was coming two weeks ago when it banned SK Gaming coach Nicolaj “Incarnati0n” Jensen from their World Championships on the grounds that Jensen, a player permanently banned from League of Legends due to behavioral issues, would now be officially recognized as a coach and thus be subject to a ban that hadn’t affected his position all year.
On the surface “officially recognizing” coaches does little to change the status quo save for players like Jensen—teams like Alliance, Cloud9, and Team SoloMid are already benefitting from their men behind the bench.
But one thing might change the paradigm. Riot has pledged to assist teams in “financially supporting” coaches. One reason why western teams are behind the coaching curve compared to Korea is that it simply doesn’t pay to be a coach on this side of the ocean. But an increased allowance for LCS teams aimed toward coaches could make the role more appealing to those with the talent for it.
“By recognizing coaches in this way, we’re aiming to make it easier for talented folks to dedicate themselves to coaching the teams as a full-time career,” the Riot Games announcement reads. “Our hope is that teams themselves support coaches as a vital part of their organization—and reap the benefits that a dedicated mentor and strategist can offer their teamplay.”
Further details on what this official recognition means will be published after Worlds. Right now things remain unclear—for example, many teams, like Dignitas, have multiple coaches. Will the Riot budget cover those expenses, or will teams need to spread it around their staff? Will there be any other advantages to being “officially recognized?” Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that coaching is the next frontier for League of Legends in the West.
Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube