It's impossible to not hear the play calling, chatter, and cheers throughout the day in the CLG League of Legends house. The players wake up to practice League and they go to sleep after 12 hours of scrims and solo queue knowing that tomorrow's another day. So finding moments of silence is rare, but those moments of silence are also periods of time where the players can find the solace to do something on their own. You don't fully realize it until you experience a complete day at the house - the amount of effort and time spent in preparation for two one-hour games each week.
It's Monday morning and it's silent, but the mornings are always silent.
Not because of the lack of those that are awake, but because it's the one time in the day where the players and staff can work on themselves as people. Darshan "Darshan" Upadhyaya wakes up early in the mornings to workout at the local gym and often times brings along Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes. They're both fairly health conscious and make regular trips to Trader Joe's and the nearby GNU to load up on protein bars.
"I only started really working out a couple of weeks ago," Darshan says as he made his morning protein shake. "But I ran for a while before that."
It's almost time for their pre-scrim meetings to start and the rest of the team starts making their way into the practice room. Jae-hyun "Huhi" Choi, Jake "Xmithie" Puchero, and Stixxay all live in the main house so they file in from one side, while Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black comes in through the side door - with his usual toothpick in mouth. Darshan is still in his workout clothes and red Nike shoes as he makes his way to his seat.
When Head Coach Tony "Zikzlol" Gray turns on the main monitor to start the meeting, all side chatter stops and the players turn their chairs away from their desks. The coach is speaking and the respect is there. Spend a few days with the team and you immediately understand why. Tony is smart.
A few days earlier the players went on a team bonding trip to Exit Game LA, a live version of the classic escape room flash games. The team chose to do the hardest room with a 10% success rate, and ultimately failed albeit making it to the last step. But there was a common sentiment and Xmithie said what everyone was thinking later on that night, "If we had Tony, we would have passed."
The head coach flips through slides of information gathered by his analysts, presenting ideas and patch notes in an easy to understand manner. The players occasionally ask questions, and together, everyone gives their own input and thoughts. Stixxay, a rookie, is calm and collected as he voices his own thoughts as if he were a veteran on the team. There's a balanced dynamic here.
Tony looks around and notices a player looking at his monitor. He calmly asks, "Jae, what are you doing? Turn around."
"Oh, Matt was just asking about something."
It's a short exchange, not much of a rebuke, and Huhi had only turned around for a second, but it was a small reminder to be focused on the meeting at hand. Still though, the meeting isn't exactly a conference meeting amongst corporate executives and a few humorous moments pop in here and there.
In one instance, Darshan starts joking about the viability of Teemo. After a few minutes of back and forth, Tony smiles and quips in, "Alright I'm going to tell him [the analyst] to start omitting Teemo from the slides."
The next slide is shown and the players start asking who "Sarah" is.
It's Miss Fortune.
Everyone laughs. Even the analyst has jokes to tell.
But when it's time to talk about the actual upcoming scrim, the tone completely changes. Tony leads the discussion, designates roles and objectives, and double checks to make sure everyone is on the same page. The first hour of practice is about to start.
The Day and Beyond
They work every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Nine hours of scheduled time, with two one-hour breaks in between.
"His flash is down."
"I've got ultie, I've got ultie. I'm TP'ing down."
You can hear it, respect it, and still wonder whether it's worth it in the end.
Later that night, Huhi was replaying scrim footage. He was up in kills, but the team still lost. He was wondering what he could have done with the gold advantage he had that would have allowed the team to win the game. Beside him was his coach, who was just as restless and trying to help him analyze the game. It was 11 p.m. and past any scheduled practice time. It was clear in that moment, that they did believe their cumulative time spent will be worth it. Both of them had shared the experience of standing on stage with thousands in the crowd cheering for them and they wanted it, again - no matter how much time and effort they needed to put in.
Today, the team faces off against Team SoloMid in the opening match of the 2016 NA LCS season. They're excited. But not as much as you'd expect. The night before didn't sound any different in the house and there was no change in the practice schedule that day. Today will be new, but part of their upcoming routine.
It will be just one hour in the thousands of hours of gameplay and practice that lie ahead of them.
They'll win and learn, one game a time.