Shakezullah on Relegation: "If we don't [win], that's so unbelievably unacceptable"
While at Fragadelphia 17: Chicago, Jeff "Mnmzzz" Moore grabbed Alan "Shakezullah" Hardeman for a minute to speak about the team's recent bootcamp in Poland, the support of a private sponsor, and what is next for the team after a disappointing season in Premier.
Note: This was recorded following Bad News Bears' win over Louisville Red Wolves at the start of day two of Fragadelphia 17: Chicago.
Bad News Bears recently returned from their Polish bootcamp, can you tell us what an average day looked for you?
We started our day at 11am and we would talk about stuff in a server for about two hours. We would play one scrim and would then take an hour break for lunch. We would come back and play three scrims back to back and then take an hour break before talking about stuff in a server before playing two more scrims and then get off. That schedule deviated a little bit you can't do elven hour days sustainably for six weeks.
We did that realistically for the first three weeks and then transitioned into a schedule that was a bit more tuned down so we didn't get burned out. We played six played six days a week and had one full day off and a three-day break in the middle. In the final part we did some more half days which were lighter so we could come back to NA without being burnt out.
While in Europe what was the quality of scrims you were able to find? Were top teams interested in playing against Bad News Bears?
We didn't struggle to find scrims at all. There were days where we didn't have full scrim schedules but you could post scrims the day of and almost get a full set of scrims even for a specific map. There were definitely days where the quality of practice with the teams wasn't very good. The way some CIS teams play is very loose and they run at you. But, I don't think they do anything different in the matches, that's just the way they play.
The depth of European team is very good and even if we're scrimming a Main or Advanced they can still be doing very legit stuff and giving very good reactions to things we're doing. The quality of practice is still fine, we didn't play a ton of tier one teams but we played a few. Generally though we were playing tier two teams like Endpoint and Sprout and teams a bit below that level.
What were the main goals of this bootcamp? What were the particulars you focused on with such a new team?
We wanted to become seven maps deep in general. Coming back we wanted to have a significant map veto advantage against a lot of Premier teams. We did end up practicing Vertigo towards the end of the bootcamp but when we played it against Strife in ECL it looked really bad so we strayed away from it the rest of the season. Our goal in general was to get experience for Swahn, Pluto, and Momo because the style of CS I like to call is very reactionary and based on a player's ability to read the game. Quite frankly, when we play NA teams, it's not the best practice because if you run up banana on Inferno and kill the B-site player every round against an Advanced team, your win condition in the round is not realistic to what it would be against paiN or another team.
If you play more reactionary and the scrim quality is way different then your match is way different. The way you are used to winning rounds is far different. Your reps are different and that can lead to problems in matches. Over in Europe it was nice to build more of a solid repertoire of reactions we have and become deeper as a team. We needed to hunker down and understand why we are making plays and how to react to good counters and expand our knowledge across the entire map pool.
That Polish bootcamp was only really possible because of Bad News Bears finding a new source of support. What can you tell me about that?
We have support from a private individual who just wants to help us as a team and achieve our dreams. He's in it for a bit of a cash incentive as well and to stick a toe into the water but definitely wants to help us do what we can to take our game to the next level.
Does the stability you've received from this sponsor helped with the mental at all now that there's less pressure to make money as an orgless team?
It definitely allows us to focus on the game more. We don't get paid a lot but we get enough where we don't have to worry about rent per se. It's enough to cover basics and not have to focus as much on another job. Money is important to pay rent and put food on the table. If you live realistically within your means you're fine but other than that you play the game because you're competitive and you want to be the best you can be. For me, the money doesn't change too much it just allows me to continue to compete at the baseline I already was at.
Unfortunately, Bad News Bears have found themselves back in ECL Relegation. What deficiencies do you think are present in the team that has caused this repeat of last season?
Something that can definitely improve is me just spending more time out of the server making our strats and communication more efficient. If we're going to do a B exec, we need to name it so everyone knows that's what we're doing across the map instead of just inventing a new name for a different B strat every single time. Finding ways to make things simpler, I think I can do a better job on focusing things outside of the server and really break down how communication needs to be efficient and how we should spend our time outside of the server.
If I can't enforce that, telling my players what they should be focusing on and that they can come to me and watch demos or be given that extra bit of support. Reading the game heavily is something I need to support my players with learning at a high level instead of making them figure it out. Me and Spongey have been playing a lot longer so if we do a CT-side server time, I've played A rotator so instead of letting Pluto figure out things on his own I can just take him aside and say it was my former role and these are the things I know and how I would react. I can watch a few of his rounds back with him and bring more experience instead of letting them try and figure it out, that's one of the reasons we struggled.
It also comes to the team reaching out and taking initiative and taking the next step. I think collectively it's something we all need to be better at.
Of the three new players on the team, who's impressed you the most so far?
I think Pluto has impressed me with his strong work ethic and he's really raw a lot of time in the game. He has games where he's terrific and some where I'm like 'What are you doin?' It's not bad though, he's learning. I went through the same stuff on Singularity and I'm sure floppy asked what I was doing. He has stuff like that, but he works hard to watch demos and do stuff outside of the game to make sure he's improving and getting better.
His communication has gotten a lot better. He used to do this thing called torpedo comming where he'd scream and say the same thing over and over. He's reduced that a lot and his comms are much more efficient. That's part of me sitting down and telling him what he needs to work on and how he needs to do stuff. You can do that with any kind of player but the challenge with any upcoming player is despite the tools you give them it's up to them to put in the work and sit down to try and improve and proactively think about what they need to do better in scrims. He's done a good job with the effort and improvement. He's significantly improved.
When he first joined the team, Pluto couldn't explain why he was making certain plays and now he has an understanding of why he's doing what he's doing. If I ever go to him and ask about an odd play and asked him what he was thinking, he can break it down for me. From there we can have a conversation about whether it was a good play or not. Was his thinking on par and does it make sense and we can have a conversation about that. At the beginning of the team he would say he didn't know what he was thinking and I would tell him what he needed to do and this is why what he did was wrong. That's not an efficient way for players to learn. To just be told you're wrong is not a productive way to teach new players, they need to understand why they did what they did and how to do it better.
How do you feel about your chances in Relegation with the likes of oNe, Axolotls, and a number of strong Advanced teams present?
I always view Relegation as 100%. I'm disappointed that we're here, I don't think we should be here. The quality we displayed over the season of ECL is not up to par with I think we can show. The only team in Relegation on par with our skill level is maybe oNe. I think we're the number one seed going into Relegation. We should realistically have to play the number two or three Advanced team and then Unjustified. We should realistically win all of those games. There's no doubt in my mind we should be back in ECL. If we don't, that's so unbelievably unacceptable that it's a shame.
If the worst were to happen, does the team have a future?
I think everyone would reconsider their options at that point. That is such a fundamentally unacceptable level that I don't think there's coming back from that.
If Bad News Bears make it back to ECL, what does the future hold?
I'm not sure. We have two months to evaluate and see what we want to do. We need to focus on Relegation and then the player break. We have time to consider our options and look through things and work through our issues or more forward with looking at different players.
Once they return home, Bad News Bears will prepare for ESL Challenger League Season 40 Relegation, which is set to start on July 15th.