Team manager Jeffrey Hoang on FlyQuest's success: 'It’s important to develop our infrastructure around the needs of our players'

Emily Rand
FlyQuest's mid laner Hai
FlyQuest’s mid laner Hai “Hai” Du Lam (Riot Games/lolesports)

Despite being heavily criticized in the community for hanging onto most of their LCS-qualifying roster and hasty entrance into the LCS under their new white and gold banner, FlyQuest initially took the split by storm. After a steep drop in their success mid-split, most expected the team to quietly lose in the Quarterfinals to Counter Logic Gaming.

After a grueling 3-2 victory, FlyQuest are on their way to face Team SoloMid in the semifinals. Their support staff has been admittedly minimal, leaving fans and the community wondering about the team’s setup. Yahoo Esports caught up with FlyQuest Team Manager Jeffrey Hoang to discuss the team’s infrastructure, support staff, and success.

How long have you worked with FlyQuest?

I joined a week before the first game of LCS. It was a tight timeline to get everything situated, but it’s worked out pretty well. We started off winning six games.

Going into the split, FlyQuest received a lot of criticism for retaining the majority of their qualifying roster, with Moon as a very late addition. Do you know why management decided to hang on to this roster.

That was an organization decision made prior to my arrival, but I do think that having well-established members on the team and using their likable personalities helped jump-start FlyQuest as a team. Perhaps the thinking was it would bring some fans over to kick-start our team. We also know that these players are veterans in LCS, they know how to play in LCS, they’ve been through everything together. Keeping that team dynamic is something that’s important and has worked out very well this split. In terms of picking up Moon, I think we were supposed to pick up someone else initially and there were visa issues. I’m really glad to have Moon. He’s a great personality, he’s really good, and he’s very dedicated to bringing his best potential to the team.

Another thing that FlyQuest has been criticized for, more recently, is a lack of communication or vague mission statement. Can you describe what the team’s goals were for this split and what the general organization’s goals are?

Sure, our goal for the split was to create the foundation of what we’d like to be considered a world-class organization. We were conscious of the fact that that doesn’t happen overnight, but with proven winners like Hai and Lemon and Balls we liked our chances to be competitive right out the gate.

Taking that into consideration, what is the team structure like from an organizational standpoint?

There’s been some misinformation going around recently about our organization’s structure. It’s true that we had a very quick ramp up ahead of the season and are still developing the organization around our players. But we have a good team in place.

I’m very proud to be the team manager and we’ve got a great GM, coach, and a terrific analyst, Chase, who does a really good job. He was onboarded at the start of the split and while he’s not onsite, he’s very professional and engaged with the team.

My job is to take care of the players’ well-being. I make sure the players are comfortable, that they’re fed, sleeping right, and are in peak physical condition. And I take care of the team house. As an organization we try our best to stay on top of the players’ needs so they can focus their energies on winning.

So that’s pretty much everyday life in the house?

Yeah, we make sure the players are comfortable. I think they like that they don’t have any sponsor obligations right now so they can do what they want. They’re basically living at home and working with a bunch of friends.

Galen “Moon” Holgate after a FlyQuest victory (Riot Games/lolesports)
Galen “Moon” Holgate after a FlyQuest victory (Riot Games/lolesports)

So for gameplay support staff like analysts, extra coaches, etc. what are you guys looking for? What does an ideal FlyQuest support staff look like?

I’m not exactly sure, Thinkcard would know a bit more than me. I know we tried out a bunch of analysts and a few other things — we’ve tried solo analyzing, analyzing as a team and we’re still getting a feel of what we want. So we’re going to take a look at that and talk it over with the entire organization.

It sounds like there was perhaps an issue with setting up the team initially and not being able to onboard too many staff members at the beginning of this split rather than lacking money or means to hire more support staff. Is the lack of staff a team choice or due to a lack of time at the beginning of the split? What happened when the team started losing mid split?

Coming into this split, even though we had to rush things a bit, I think getting the team to know each other wasn’t a problem. The good team dynamic really helped jump-start our wins. After that, once we started losing, we started analyzing more, seeing if we could improve our practices.

So it’s more by choice and depends on what the team wants?

We want to make sure that the players are set up to succeed. But we’re not an organization that will prescribe what that looks like to them without their input. We’re always talking with our players about their needs and figuring out as an organization what makes sense for us.

So it’s more player-based than the organization coming down and telling them what to do?

I think we’re definitely receptive to the players. I’m always at the team house listening in and then me and Ryan [the GM] are always synching up to make sure that the players have what they need.

This team has a lot of seasoned veterans who have been playing LoL for a long time. Do they make more of the organizational calls or does FlyQuest as a whole?

I’d say that management makes the final calls on organizational decisions, but that we take a ton of player input into any decision we make. Thinkcard and I are always talking, seeing if anything needs to be done. Me and Ryan aren’t pro athletes or anything like that. We can only look at what other teams have done and maybe try it, but if our team isn’t comfortable with it, there would be a disconnect. I wouldn’t say that they’re running the organization, but they definitely have a large say. We take the players’ advice into consideration and make sure that everything gets done properly through the management side of things.

For the playoffs specifically, FlyQuest did pick up additional support staff. Towards the middle and end of the split, the team was struggling, but you did look better against CLG and pulled out the 3-2 win. How did the additional support staff help you, including staff from other teams like Immortals’ coach Hermes?

I would have to ask the team. Hermes definitely brings in a different way of coaching than Thinkcard. They’re two different people, they’re two different coaches, and they have two different coaching styles. When Hermes came on he did more analysis. I’ve only watched about 10 percent of what exactly they do during VOD reviews, but from what I’ve heard he’s very analytical and he’s saying that we should focus on this macro strategy and then talks it over with Lemon about picks and bans. I think we have a unique structure because Lemon is a former coach and knows a lot about picks and bans so he collaborates with Thinkcard and then Thinkcard provides larger strategy and the correct mindset for the team.

Returning for a moment to Hai’s interview with Travis, one thing that a lot of people latched onto was that Hai doesn’t live with the team, which could be construed as FlyQuest not having enough room for their players or more live-in support staff. Can you describe the team house setup?

It was Hai’s preference and an organizational decision for him to stay at his old residence, which I currently live at now as well, and Lemon and Balls have lived there before too. I think he wanted to have his own place so that he could bring his own friends over and that’s just the freedom that he wanted. In a team house, it can get a little dicey trying to find privacy or disconnecting from work. Hai chose to live separately, but I don’t think it has impacted the team dynamic or success.

You also mentioned that the team doesn’t have sponsor obligations. What does promotion and sponsorship look like for FlyQuest going forward? Have you thought of acquiring other sponsorships?

We’re considering different partnerships down the line that we think can add value for our fans. There will be sponsor obligations in the future but we didn’t focus on it a lot for this split because we really wanted the team to focus on playing so we would perform well. We wanted the team to have a lot of time to practice, a lot of free time if they needed it. We wanted them to focus primarily on the game.

So what does FlyQuest’s infrastructure for next split look like? What is the ideal FlyQuest infrastructure?

We’re still in process of evaluating this split and what wrong and what went right and why. I think it’s realistic that as an organization we will continue to grow and evolve going into Summer Split. Ideally, FlyQuest’s infrastructure as a whole is based on the right support for our players to perform at their best. It’s important to develop our infrastructure around the needs of our players, rather than initially creating a structure, and forcing them to adapt to it. Apologies on not being as vocal and open about everything but we wanted to focus a lot on gameplay for this split. That’s always going to be our top priority. We’ll also be doing a reddit AMA on Tuesday [April 18] to answer community questions.

Emily Rand’s love for the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter @leagueofemily