Benching players is a delicate process in any sport. It can happen for performance reasons, because of players and coaches attitudes or on a whim at the start of a game. In the wake of Counter Logic Gaming’s now-deleted tweet — wherein its General Manager Daniel Lee told his players that some may get benched the following week — the conversation around benching players is less about why and more about how they are benched.
According to players that Upcomer spoke to, transparency and directness with the move is how it should be done. The move should be communicated directly to the player and then to the team. But, they agreed that airing those conversations online is not the way to go.
According to Robert “Blaber” Huang, there is no good way to tell someone they are benched from the starting lineup.
“I think you just have to say it, like just tell him to their face and just be direct and honest,” Blaber said. “And try not to find the worst timing possible and put it all over Twitter.”
The 21-year-old jungler split time in both the League of Legends Championship Series and the Academy league in his first years with Cloud9.
Immortals mid laner David “Insanity” Challe shared a similar sentiment. The young player was benched for one game this season, for Prodromos “Pretty” Kevezitidis, because of his performance in Academy. Insanity said the move was communicated to him before the season even began.
— Immortals (@Immortals) June 10, 2021
“Obviously, as a player, it’s not something that I was looking forward to,” Insanity said. “But it’s something that I’m okay with because I know in my position, when I was younger and I wasn’t in LCS, I would have appreciated the opportunity as well.”
Insanity said the honesty helped him unburden himself in terms of performance.
“That, for me, was definitely more helpful and it made me think about it less than if it were just some random thing. I would have been like, ‘Okay, I’m getting benched. Maybe it’s my performance or something,’” Insanity said. “But it was communicated from the get go, so it was very healthy in my opinion.”
The veterans of the league expressed similar feelings. Journeyman players like Dignitas’ jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham and CLG’s recent acquisition Tanner Damonte have been benched at one time or another in the LCS; both with different teams and situations ranging from performance to internal issues within their competing organizations.
Damonte, who replaced Eugene “Pobelter” Park on the team’s starting roster, stated that when teams are not transparent with their roster moves to their players, it can ravage a players mental health.
We are making a change in the mid lane. @Damonte will be starting for CLG this weekend. Thank you to our fans for continuing to support the team. We're committed to finishing this season strong. #CLGFIGHTING pic.twitter.com/56XQpL1WZa
— CLG (@clgaming) July 13, 2021
“That’s something I feel like I’ve gone through as well,” Damonte said. “I think if you’re not being transparent with your players with benching and with how all that is going on, then I think you’re just not respecting the player at all.”
He also mentioned how stressful moving from LCS to Academy can be to a player. Damonte said his benching on 100 Thieves moved quickly and that it was a stressful time for him.
As for Akaadian, the 24-year-old player has played under five different LCS organizations in his career. For four of those teams — TSM, Echo Fox, OpTic Gaming and Dignitas — he has been benched or moved around from their Academy to LCS rosters and vice versa.
He said he thinks the best time for players to hear the news is before the week starts. However, he stated that that depends on the situation; it may have to happen at another time.
“I think it’s bad if it comes after a game. Like on the day that you lost a game, I feel like it’s bad,” Akaadian said. “I think CLG had just lost their game when it happened and they told the whole team…I think you should tell the person who’s gonna get benched by themselves and then you should tell the team as a group once it happens together. But, you shouldn’t have the person you’re benching be in the same room as [the team] when you’re telling them.”
Transparency and tact seems to be what players want from their teams. They shared that there is no good way to break the news. Competitive players will always want to start, but there are ways to mitigate the stress and public fallout from the move.
According to Akaadian, if a player is happy moving to the bench, there are other factors at play.
“There’s not a way that you can ever say that news to a player where they’re going to be happy about it,” Akaadian said. “unless they don’t want to play anymore.”