An Interview with Jukaah Vargas, Coach of KaBuM! e-Sports Black

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Following the announcement that coaches would be allowed in the booth for champion select in Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends (CBLoL) 2015, no one was as happy as the coach of KaBuM! e-Sports Black, Ednilson “Jukaah” Vargas.

“Obviously the draft. I love making the draft!” he says of his favorite coaching facet. “But really, I love everything about my job.”

Jukaah is most at home prior to the match. Pacing back and forth behind his five players, during the draft phase holding his signature “The Little Mermaid” notebook.

“I’m not a good player, but I always was in the middle of the competitive LoL thanks to friends.” He says of his introduction to the coaching position. “One day a team of friends called me to help, that’s when I started. I was really bad. I’m still bad, but then I was worse.”

His role on this team of friends was minor, limited to offering intermittent in-game advice as well as watching their matches.

“I watched the games, spoke to errors, but nothing overly relevant.”

When the jungler of this team, Yuhri “CloudPrince” Benaion, was picked up by Make a Difference (MAD) Gaming, he requested that Jukaah tag along as a coach. On MAD, Jukaah began taking coaching more seriously, focusing how he could draw the best results out of his players.

“It changed my life completely, because I lived in a gaming house. And I began to take seriously while still enjoying what I was doing. I still did not do great things as a coach, so I started studying the game and psychology.”

While Jukaah cites Kim “KkOma” Jeong-gyun as his League of Legends coaching idol – because of his draft – he attributes many of his coaching aspirations to watching international football manager José Mourinho.

“Basically, I learned that I’m working with other completely different people, and I have to make them have the same kind of thinking, but without changing how they are.”

Following his tenure with MAD, Jukaah looked for larger opportunities, including one with Brazil’s most famous League of Legends organization, paiN Gaming.

“I had proposed to some teams, but then I came in contact with paiN. I passed their test period, and was officially hired as an analyst.”

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Jukaah joined paiN Gaming on July 12, 2014, seven days before the Brazilian Regional Finals.

“First, happiness!” he says excitedly of his initial reaction to the offer from paiN. “Second, I saw that my work was evolving fast and it cheered me up. I had friends in paiN, so I was not isolated from the beginning.”

“PaiN had more structure – gaming house, food, computers, equipment – and the team had more experienced players,” he stops to pause for a moment, “and salary!”

After two months as an analyst for paiN, Jukaah was offered the coaching position.

“As an analyst, I just took numbers for the team, like percentage of picks and bans, information of other teams, and such. As a coach, you do this, and also train your team, take care of them mentally, search for new things etc. An analyst is maybe 10 percent of the job of a coach,” he pauses and laughs, “Okay maybe 15 percent.”

In moving from the analyst position back to a coaching position, Jukaah drew on previous experiences in addition to reading up on sports psychology, to help him guide the team.

“Well, all the players [on paiN] were very different. Mechanically better, some were more friendly at the start, others took a while to start a friendship, but they always had respect for me.”

On his time on paiN Gaming, the team consisted of three Brazilian players – Whesley “Leko” Holler, Gabriel “Kami” Santos, and Thúlio “SirT” Carlos – and two Korean imports, Han “Lactea” Gi-hyeon and Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung. As a hybrid team, paiN Gaming sometimes struggled to communicate due to the language barrier, a problem that Jukaah was tasked with solving.

“Yes, it was a barrier for the whole team in fact, this hurt things very much. But I tried as hard as I could, especially when they had a personal problem, that was when I had to talk to them more deeply.”

During his tenure on the team, paiN Gaming went on a 17-0 run, including both the IEM San Jose/CBLoL 2015 qualifier as well as third party tournaments like the Razer Challenge Season 2. Their first losses with him as a coach came at the hands of North America’s Cloud9 at IEM San Jose. Jukaah left the team shortly after.

“After my exit from paiN I had several proposals: Brazil, Argentina, I even tried to join an NA LCS team. Then Espeon came to me with a proposal for a great team, with optimal structure, in my opinion. I accepted and announced it the next day.”

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Now on KaBuM! e-Sports Black, Jukaah is tasked with bringing up a different team dynamic: one of young players – some in both age and professional experience – around the more seasoned support player Martin “Espeon” Gonçalves. In spite of many difficulties, including a penalty of -4 points going into the season for changes to their qualifying roster, Jukaah and team are determined.

“I love my team. I am really happy here, and I think we can be one of the best teams in Brazil. We just need time.”