Great Expectations: How the Weight of Winning Impacts the Summer Season

A few universal truths exist in sports, and e-Sports is no different. Winning isn't everything it's the only thing, there is no "I" in team, and of course that it's easier to win when no one expects you to do it. Being the scrappy underdog will always be easier than the old favorite and the biggest reason is expectations.

Ask any player and they will tell you that the mental game plays just as big of a role in the way a player and a team performs as their actual skill levels. So what does this mean for the LCS? It means that teams like GGU, Vulcun, and Ninjas in Pajamas (formerly Copenhagen Wolves) have their work cut out for them in the summer split.

The Problems Winning Creates

When a team has a great season, especially coming out of nowhere they are only expected to get better and better. Fans and the players believe themselves that they are essentially climbing a ladder and that a 2nd or 3rd place finish means a 1st place finish the next season. In reality, it's not that simple because a lot of things have to go correctly to win. That's what truly makes the incredible run of TSM all the more impressive. Everyone's been gunning for them for months and they still always manage to end on top.

So what happens if one of those teams starts slow? They had seemed to figure it all last season and if they come out and start something like 2-5 everyone will be pressing the panic button. The outcry of the community will begin from Reddit to the General Discussion forums about how Vulcun was overrated or GGU's 2nd place finish was a fluke run. When you win and finish strong, the next time people are gunning for you, not the other way around. Teams take you more seriously than before and the element of surprise is gone.

We heard endless discussion about the top 4 and bottom 4 in the NA LCS. At the beginning of the season it was about how much better the top 4 was than the other 4. At the end, it was about how there was hardly a gap between any of the teams and if anything that's worse for the teams who finished highly. If one of those teams starts slow again this season, we could very easily see roster moves and the proverbial panic button struck too quickly. At the end of the day, e-Sports is a business and the business is winning.

It's not just from an organizational or community standpoint that is impacted. Psychologically as a team it hurts to lose when you expect to win. Confidence can be broken easily by losing a few games you thought you should win because you (and the community at large) were perceived as the stronger team. Teams are much more likely to argue when they are losing to a team they believe is worse than them whether it is actually the case or not, than losing to a team expected to crush them.

Dealing with the drama

It's easy to say that you can't let outside pressures effect you and to just play your game. Every manager/coach tells their player that in every sport, but it might be the toughest in e-Sports. Interacting with the community is such a gigantic part of being a professional player, that when that community turns on them it's hard not to take notice. For every Reginald out there that can take all the criticism and brush it off his shoulder like he's Jay-Z, there's a million other players like Hotshot, or MakNooN, or Elementz who let the criticism effect them more than it should.

Cliches are cliches for a reason, and one of the best in regards to sports is one game at a time. That's the only way to deal with expectations effectively. When you are team expected to win, you can't be thinking about what place you'll end up at, it's how can i win the next game. This same strategy matters in solo queue as well, what happened in the last game doesn't matter. Take what you can from the game in the prism of getting better, and forget about the outcome win or loss because the next game is the most important one.

It's a common thing in other sports for a team that makes a big off-season acquisition, or finished strong last year to take a step back the next year because they believe they are naturally going to get better. It's hard to remember all the hard work that got you to that strong finish when everyone is singing your praises during the off-season, but if they don't, a step back is inevitable.

The Lakers in basketball this season acquired a lot of talent and have a history of success, but the lofty expectations set on them at the beginning of the season only weighed them down as the injuries and losses piled up. League doesn't have physical injuries, but nerfs to champions are essentially the same thing. Until a player is able to adapt his champion pool, he isn't playing up to his potential when "healthy".

The flip side of the coin works as well. CLG comes in with a new lineup and almost no expectations to start the season, a position they've never been use to before. Just this last season we saw SK Gaming start strong and have a very good showing during the regular season when no one thought they'd be as strong as they were. Don't be surprised if several teams that ended last season fighting for their lives in relegation matches start strong in the new season because they had to fight and claw every step of the way. It certainly worked for Curse at the start of the spring split.

In the LCS, beating TSM will count the same as one of the teams who won a spot from the amateur circuit. Expectations can't color the way your team plays because it was almost always be a negative weight that everyone will feel all the time. Players respond differently to pressure, but playing carefree and loose is almost universally accepted as the best way to play. So much more goes into winning than people realizing for professional teams.

Preparation, the way the meta shifts, how a player feels on the day they play, that it's impossible for anyone to not have a bad week or two. The question is how well will the teams be able to handle it this time around when all their weeks are suppose to be good. 

What do you think RoG'ers? Will teams like Vulcun, NiP, and GGU perform better or worse this season? Which team will surprise that was in relegation? Do expectations and pressure from the community, management, and the team really matter? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to stay tuned to ReignofGaming for all your LoL-related needs!

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  • #17 Gilgamarsh

    After the All-Stars games I have a lot more respect for Doublelift and CLG in general. Hopefully their roster changes give them an edge this season.

    In EU, it's going to be really interesting to see Fnatic and Gambit continue to fight for the #1 slot. Copenhagen Wolves are quite exciting to watch as well.

  • #15 futuresight23

    GGU appears to be a team that at the very least got hot at the right time as Curse and Dignitas fell off from their level of play earlier in the season.  We'll see how they do under the weight of some expectation.  Vulcan likely falls in the same category though they were moderately more consistent than GGU throughout the season.

    Of course, expectations will likely be that Curse and Dignitas bounce back and finish ahead of where they did in the 1st half.  

    CLG is in a weird spot where no one knows how their team will come together.  They'll be the team to get back to when the playoffs start.

    As far as the Copenhagen Wolves go... why the hell do these teams keep changing their names?  Even though any team name with Ninja in it is good, why change from Copenhagen Wolves?  Gets somewhat difficult to keep track of sometimes?

  • #16 Dalzee

    It's not like they WANT to change their names, is that their organization drops them or no longer supports them. That's what happened to CW and had to look for another organization that was interested in a LoL professional team.

  • #12 Zalfi

    I don't think CLG will hit the ground running but once they have a few games under their belt they will be a force to be reckoned with, especially the return of chausterlift. I think Vulcan and especially GGU have a shit ton of pressure on their shoulders to prove the playoff runs were not flukes, beating a fairly weak CLG and a Curse team that is falling apart doesn't prove much.

  • #7 jalzter

    Hey tuck! Nice article! I was thinking, it seems to me that some teams are super great at seaso s whereas some teams tend to tear up tourneys you think that some teams can have a tournament edge and some teams just win over sheer consistancy? Maybe we need to wait until summer season is over but it seems to me that I would bet on different teams to win the seasons and the playoffs. What do you think guys?

  • #13 Tuck359

    For the most part, I believe the strongest teams are the strongest teams and will win in whatever scenario you present to them. I believe the only team right now I'd take in a tournament setting over a league setting would be Gambit.

    Gambit's track record in tournaments is pretty good and they generally only get stronger as a tournament goes on. They are the type of team that in a long season can lose interest but in a tournament is someone you never want to see.

  • #14 Tuck359

    For the most part, I believe the strongest teams are the strongest teams and will win in whatever scenario you present to them. I believe the only team right now I'd take in a tournament setting over a league setting would be Gambit.

    Gambit's track record in tournaments is pretty good and they generally only get stronger as a tournament goes on. They are the type of team that in a long season can lose interest but in a tournament is someone you never want to see.

  • #18 LolLolLolJake

    I think it's also because Gambit preps differently for tournaments than the LCS. They don't have gaming house, and they live far away from Germany, so the travel time severely restricts their time to practice. For a tournament, they'll buckle down, boot camp, and then show up ready to play.


  • #6 CoolRoot

    Argh, the only big swedish esports organisation goes and recruits a bunch of danes :( I had hoped for a long time that some swedes would manage to break through to the top, so far only one has managed to find a spot on a major team, and he was ditched not much later due to age restrictions... 

    Guess we'll never see something like CW for sweden now, NiP were pretty much the only ones who could have pulled that of.

    I am sad.

  • #3 Zentari2238

    "there is no "I" in team" : That horrible saying is still being thrown around ?

  • #4 Basinator


  • #5 someone010101

    There is an "I" in team. It's about 1/5. Or, if you're Doublelift ...


  • #8 Travistyse

    You mean this one?

  • #9 PartyMagier


  • #10 AwesomeT07

    the is no "i" in team but there is still an "m" and an "e"

  • #2 NGAF

    Until I'm proven wrong, NiP are stronger than SK. Not by much of course, I would not expect them to win every single match against SK. I'd even go as far as say they are contestants for EU's top spot, as they showed they can take games from EG, Fnatic and Gambit.

    Despite what happenned in NA, I do not expect GGU and Vulcun to finish 2nd and 3rd again. The pressure might not be as heavy on them as it would have been on CLG or Dignitas. Even Curse will feel more pressure, as they have been finishing 4th over and over again, yet they are expected to be top 3.

    NiP will perform better this summer, there's no doubt about it. GGU and Vulcun will also perform better during the regular season, yet I can't see them in the top 3 during playoffs.

  • #1 Pelikins

    I think NiP (Wolves) will have a much better season than they did last. Bjergsen is the cornerstone player that they needed and didn't have for the first half of last season. But once he stepped in, the Wolves won the vast majority of their games. Big things are coming for them.

  • #11 Mockstar

    This is terrifying when you think about it. NiP won a huge percentage of their games once Bjergsen got to join them. It would've been insane if he'd been with them from the start, since at that rate they would've been a dominant force earlier in the season.

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