GrabbZ says “creating a sense of pride” in his team is a priority
Few League of Legends coaches have a resume comparable to that of Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohman. The former coach of G2 Esports has many a title under his belt and has worked with some of the best players Europe has seen. However, he needed a new challenge. He found one at his new organization: Team BDS.
In an exclusive, two-part interview, GrabbZ spoke to us about his decision to join Team BDS. In this second part, he reflected on his four years at G2 Esports, why he needed change, and how he as a coach has had to adapt over the years.
Hotspawn: Let’s now talk about what this next adventure means to you personally. You come from four years at G2 and worked with more seasoned players. Is working with ‘fresher’ players what you wanted as a next challenge?
GrabbZ: Exactly. It also isn’t just G2, but having that whole ‘superteam’ thing, having to win every Split. Winning is a big part of satisfaction as a coach, but seeing growth is something that I missed from ROCCAT days. There is only so much growth that you can go for with the players that were on G2, right? The automatisms are there.
I don’t want to say mistakes ‘rarely’ happen, because we fucking inted last year, but most of the time the players know what waves to push and how to behave around vision. Especially Wunder. He is probably one of the best side-laning top laner that Europe has ever seen. So, there is a very little amount I can help with. [Laughs] I have to put the focus on something else.
Here, just having a chance again to make players better overall, is something I really look forward to. The same goes for Duffman, who I want to point out here. When we knew that we would leave G2, earlier in the year, it was very clear to us that we would work together. That is something that we both pursued. Of course, there were some projects in the West where another superteam would have been an option for us, but we were also really happy to go for this.
Hotspawn: What ultimately put you off coaching another ‘superteam’, then? Having to do the same thing you did at G2?
GrabbZ: Yea, it would be having the same as what we had for four years in a row. It’s a change of scenery for both of us. In the future, I can imagine doing it again, of course. But for now, it is just a different environment. The reason why also G2 didn’t work out in the end was, I think, that you feel jaded after a while. I was there for four years with Wunder and Jankos, Mikyx and Caps for three years. So at some point, you’re just sick of seeing each other. And not in a way of saying ‘we don’t like each other’.
Ultimately, replacing someone like Perkz is really hard. (…) It’s not only the quality of play, but also the whole hierarchy of interpersonal relationships that gets shaken up.
Hotspawn: It’s just repetitive.
GrabbZ: Exactly. It’s like a relationship, right? [Laughs] After three or four years, either you find the fire again, or you can break up. And I guess we had to break up. I think everybody right now is happy. Even Mikyx, I think, would prefer being a streamer right now over going another year with the unit we had. I think it was best for all of us.
Hotspawn: While this venture at BDS is obviously a quite drastic change, I cannot imagine that you didn’t have to adapt and adjust your coaching style at G2. How did you have to shift gears with different players over the years?
GrabbZ: It’s hard to describe. The things you know just become clearer and more structured, in a way. I wouldn’t say I added anything big to my skillset, but the things that I had from ROCCAT just became better. For example, just to paint a picture, coming from ROCCAT I felt really strongly that I am really good at empathy and reading players’ feelings, how I should approach them. But even just a year after that, I was like ‘Man, I was shit at that at ROCCAT. I had no fucking idea what to do.’ That’s basically how I feel every year. Every year, there are certain aspects you can improve on.
Of course, I’ve had different personality types in my players. That means I learned something new, that the other person is different. I could show that I can address them all in the correct manner at the same time. It is something that was ever-changing, and it was enjoyable.
Also, with every Worlds we went to, we learned new things. In 2019 we got to the grand final, and in 2020 we felt we understood the game better. Even though, back then, people said ‘Oh G2 is just saying that they feel better than they did in 2019, bla bla,’ but we actually felt that way. We actually felt that we understood the game on a higher level and that we could play it better. For me, as a coach, it was the same thing.
Hotspawn: One change that was most visible, was when Perkz left. He was a very big voice in the team and with him gone, as the G2 players said in interviews, the team needed to fill that gap. How did your coaching change when he left?
GrabbZ: The idea that we had, going into the Split with Rekkles, was that we wanted to have a more flat hierarchy in terms of how we communicate. Perkz is the big personality and also took a lot of room in reviews, for example. He would voice over others’ space, basically. I’m not saying he talked over them, but he just said so much and took the lead, that others just had to fill up the blanks.
We failed to find the healthy balance. But also, people have to understand something that doesn’t come to light often because many teams don’t live for three or four years: If you know somebody, you can’t change their personality from one day to another. There is credibility to everything you say. If, after three years, someone suddenly becomes way more aggressive or burdening, you don’t believe them. I’m not talking about myself only—also about Wunder, Jankos, Mikyx, and Caps. And I don’t mean that you consciously call them out or anything, but you take their words less to heart than if they would talk normally. So, it’s not like I or Jankos could suddenly become the screaming guy, make a show and slam tables—as Carlos now famously said in his AMA—and make sure people are on track.
Even that, I think, could have been fine. Because, and I want to point this out, we still did well in the regular Split. I’m sure that, if you ask MAD Lions, they would say that we were the best team to scrim against.
Hotspawn: You won the regular Spring Split and got second in the regular Summer Split.
GrabbZ: Yea, but for one reason or another, we could not transform what we had before. G2 used to be kind of shit in the regular Split, and then in Playoffs we got into higher gear. I think, with all the successes we had while missing Perkz, we just missed that final step. I think that’s the bigger reason.
Ultimately, replacing someone like Perkz is really hard. I’ll make a parallel to sports that have been going for hundreds of years, like football. Each team usually has this one big voice where you know that they are the captain. The coach gives that player the responsibility to lead the team. If that person suddenly leaves, very often you have a vacuum. Look at [FC] Barcelona right now. Messi has obviously left a huge hole with his play, but his voice probably also had a lot of weight. When a person like Ronaldo leaves [Real] Madrid or Juventus, these teams usually struggle afterwards. It’s not only the quality of play, but also the whole hierarchy of interpersonal relationships that gets shaken up. It’s really hard to compensate for that.
Creating the sense of insignificance in the team was the biggest mistake I made. They were not hungry.
Hotspawn: What lessons are you taking away from this past year at G2, where the team ultimately did not live up to the expectations?
GrabbZ: I would say the biggest mistake from me, and I think also in some part from G2, was that we failed to excite ourselves for the LEC. Especially in the Spring Split. I tried to change it for the Summer Split, but it was late then as well. I fucked up by always talking about ‘take it easy before MSI, before Worlds,’ you know? How can I tell my players to give it their all in the Playoffs when I’ve been telling them that this LEC things “doesn’t matter”? Even in the Summer Split, we said ‘Well as long as we reach Worlds, we don’t really care.’ We want to win Worlds. We don’t really care about LEC.
Even someone like Rekkles, who hasn’t won LEC in a long while, said that it only matters how you play at Worlds. It doesn’t matter if you win the LEC if you don’t get out of the Group Stage at Worlds, for example. Creating the sense of insignificance in the team was the biggest mistake I made. They were not hungry. The whole messaging we did as an org did not help either. Ultimately, that is how G2 sold itself. We talked about winning Worlds, mostly. We didn’t celebrate the small victories anymore.
For BDS, it is different because we have a young team. But imagine in two years, three years from now, whether I’m here or on another team: I want to make sure that my players take it seriously in a way that they can still enjoy even winning a best-of-one in the LEC studio. I think that creating that sense of pride in what you do, celebrating the small victories, is something that I will take with me in my future endeavors.
Click here for Part 1 of our talk with GrabbZ, where he talks about building the Team BDS lineup and the goals he has set for the roster.