“I think the coach I’m trying to be is myself,” Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg replied when asked if there’s a coach he’s attempting to model himself after.
After illustriously winning six LCS Championships and four MVP awards while also garnering five Worlds appearances as the prodigious TSM mid laner, Bjergsen is looking to further bolster his enormous legacy, this time as the team’s head coach. Bjergsen sat down with Stropse to discuss his journey into coaching League of Legends and what he’s learned so far.
Bjergsen is coming off his fifth appearance at Worlds and sixth LCS Championship in his seven year career in North America. The thought that someone not named Bjergsen would be the TSM mid laner had never entered anyone’s mind. In all of LCS history, only two people have ever held that title: owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh and Bjergsen.
The First Steps
Bjergsen had a career year in 2020, winning an LCS title in summer and just narrowly losing the MVP award to Team Liquid support Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. After establishing TSM as a staple team after another successful year, where was he supposed to go? Bjergsen decided to talk through his thought process with long time TSM manager Parth Naidu.
“I talked to Parth first, because Parth is just a close friend of mine,” Bjergsen told Stropse. “I’ve worked with him for, I want to say, five, six years. And he’s definitely the person who, if I was to tell him, and he thought it was a really bad idea, he would tell me.”
Parth has been a part of TSM since around the same time Bjergsen arrived, serving as an analyst before being promoted to head coach and then to general manager. Bjergsen felt comfortable knowing that Parth would be honest with him, even if he believed it was the wrong move (which he kind of did).
“He thought it was still maybe too soon, and that I could accomplish more as a player, but if this was really what I wanted, and what I felt strongly about, then he was supportive. And he said that he really believes that I can be a great coach with time.”
The “with time” part is what’s important, and Bjergsen acknowledges that. “Coaching is a very nuanced and difficult job,” Bjergsen said. “And I think as a player, you don’t really appreciate how difficult it can be. But I’m really excited to be in this role and to be challenged in this way and to keep improving.”
Being Bjergsen and Trusting Your Gut
“I wouldn’t say there is one coach that I’m really trying to model myself after,” Bjergsen explained. “I think that the coach I’m really trying to be is myself, because I think it’s very easy to think that I need to be this kind of coach or that this coach in X sport is really successful. Coaches are successful in many different ways and I need to figure out how I am best as a coach.
“I still go outside my comfort zone and look to improve, but I really need to figure out, as Bjergsen, as Søren Bjerg, staying true to who I am, what is the best way for me to coach the team?”
As Bjergsen embarks on his quest to discover his true coaching self, the LCS Lock In tournament proved to be a fantastic starting point for his journey.
“I think I definitely need to trust my gut a little bit more,” Bjergsen said of his takeaways from the tourney. The 24-year-old explained that as a new coach, it’s easy to think that the players are right and he is wrong. But after all, he is the head coach, and trusting his gut is what will take him far.
“To continue to improve, I need to trust my gut a little bit more and see where that takes me. Whether that’s a win or a loss, positive or negative, at least that way I will learn. There were a few moments throughout this tournament, especially in the beginning, where I didn’t quite trust what I thought was right, and maybe I trusted what champions were winning in other regions rather than really doing what I thought was best.”
Command over the drafting process is just one of Bjeregsen’s new responsibilities. “When the draft is not your responsibility as a player, then it doesn’t seem as difficult as it is in reality,” he explained. One of the things which Bjeregsen has realized is that working with his players is more of a challenge than it seems.
“Of course, you wish that all of your players were masterful at every single champion, but that’s not a reality for any team, even the best teams in the world… I’m really trying to find the balance between what we feel comfortable and confident on, and what is ideal, and I think that’s something every drafter and coach struggles with.”
One of the most important aspects of coaching is building relationships with your players. Bjergsen, who already played a full split with jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu, has a head start on this.
“Spica is a guy who’s kind of a troll,” Bjergsen said of his 19-year-old teammate. “He says things and kind of jokes a lot. Sometimes he jokes at times where I don’t feel like he really should be joking. And then it’s kind of my job as a coach to make sure that he’s a little bit more serious.”
In his rookie campaign, Spica entered a volatile position as TSM’s jungler. It’s a role which has long-haunted TSM fans, and most recently sprouted drauma with the situation involving Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett and TSM president Aileena “Leena” Xu. But Spica’s performance on the rift has been incredibly impressive, and he’s brought some much-needed stability to TSM’s rapidly-changing roster.
“I think having worked with him before has been really helpful to me,” Bjergsen said. “Seeing how other coaches have worked with him and seeing what works with him and what doesn’t… It’s been really helpful having that with him.”
Bjergsen does have experience working with Spica, but the head coach noted that camaraderie still needs to be built with his other players, such as the highly-touted LPL import, Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh. Speaking of his first impressions of SwordArt, Bjergsen admitted, “Of course, there was a worry in the back of my mind that this guy’s just kind of selling out and coming to North America.”
However, in actually talking to SwordArt, Bjergsen had nothing but high praise to say of the Taiwanese support. “As soon as I talked to him, I just felt his drive, and I felt how badly he wanted to win. He wanted to talk to every single player on our team, he wanted to talk to every single staff, he wanted to see what our prep looks like, what my plans are and what I envision the daily schedule to look like. Literally every single question that you could possibly think of, he asked me about.”
Bjergsen also added, “After I had that conversation with him, I was pushing as hard as I could to pick him up because he made such a strong first impression on me.”
Although TSM didn’t quite have the Lock In Tournament Bjergsen was expecting, the new head coach still has a lot to look forward to going into 2021. With the opportunity to coach hot young talent, established leaders and storied veterans all with his home organization, this journey will be a challenging one, yet it has the potential to be incredibly rewarding.
We at Stropse thank Bjergsen for his time.