League of Legends: The Problems of Private Coaching

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League of Legends. Photo Courtesy of Riot Games.

Getting private coaching for League of Legends has its drawbacks.

For players who want to improve their gameplay in League of Legends, private coaching is a tantalizing option. Low elo players often make a myriad of mistakes they’re either unable to correctly identify or correct, so getting the advice of a player at high elo should provide some benefit.

Most sites or private coaches will boast reviews of satisfied customers who climbed whole tiers in just a few short weeks after their coaching sessions. While those testimonials certainly are powerful, and may very well be true, there is also a flip side to that experience that most players never hear about or consider.

I’ve watched and received coaching – both free and paid – from multiple reputable companies (e.g. Skillcapped) and prominent streamers/Youtubers. In that time, my rank has rarely risen more than a few divisions and often fluctuated back down to near where I was before the coaching.

That’s not to say that I didn’t learn useful tips from these sessions, or that the coaching I received was a waste of time. But getting coaching is not a magic bullet that will instantly turn a Silver player into a Diamond. If you are considering hiring a coach, you should keep these considerations in mind.

VOD Reviews versus Hands-On Training

Most coaching that I have seen or received are straight-up VOD reviews, meaning a high-elo coach will watch a replay of one or two of your solo queue games and provide feedback. This information is certainly helpful, particularly for very new or inexperienced players who don’t have a robust knowledge base.

A lot of these replays will focus on issues such as champion pool, itemization, trading patterns, and some macro concepts. If a player is not familiar with how to itemize, for instance, a coach doing a VOD review is an incredibly helpful method to explain these concepts.

The problem with VOD reviews, though, is that they rarely provide any action plan for the player being coached, other than “here are the mistakes you made, now you know not to make them in the future.” This is equivalent to checking a student’s homework, showing him how to do the math problems correctly, and sending him on his way. The student may not fully grasp how to apply this knowledge to his future games and there may be other fundamental issues that prevent them from applying what they’ve learned.

Better teaching would involve not just reviewing a replay and pointing out mistakes, but walking through a game with a player, asking them why they are making certain decisions or making certain mistakes. In this way, a coach can identify if the player’s issue is due to a lack of game knowledge, mechanical issues, mentality, or just a poor champion fit, and then correct the issues accordingly.

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