June 02, 2020

We need a change!

by Kasper Hvidt, Director of Sports, Astralis Group

There is only one thing we regret about the decision to increase the roster size in Astralis: We should have done it years ago! 

The message of protecting the mental and physical health of our players is essential for the future of our industry. We have carried this message since day one, and we have invested significantly in improving the conditions on and around our teams. 

The organization around our teams at Astralis Group consists of a sports psychologist, available around the clock, we have a physical trainer and training set-up, physio, team doctor, dietist, body SDS and a range of other health resources available if and when needed. 

This is a part of our strategy to build a solid foundation around our teams and players to secure a strong competitive position long term, and it is done to help the players extend their careers. 

This is also the basis for increasing the roster size. Ultimately we would like to see across game titles a full 10 player set-up with an academy team like in the pro League of Legends leagues. It would be a great way of letting talents work in a fully professional environment with access to all facilities, and it would be a smoother transition when substituting players on the “A team”. 

The pressure on a CS:GO player today is inhumane. We have done a lot to avoid fatigue and burn-outs including prioritizing tournaments to give the players much needed time to recover and also have a private life. We have worked with mental tools, physical fitness, sleep patterns, and a range of other areas, and had we not done this, we would not have seen Astralis on the top of all charts for as long as they have. All credit should be given to the players as well, as besides being incredibly skilled, they have adapted to and embraced all the new practices and habits, we have thrown their way.

So why the burn-outs? Have we not done the job right?

Let me start another place. I’ve been working in elite sports all my life and we have other people in the organization who have as long experience in handling or being top athletes too. We have all experienced this before in our prior jobs and we know from our psychologist that it is a growing tendency in elite sports all over the world: Players are hit mentally and the need to recover and recharge is a global phenomenon. We often do not hear about it, as other players have simply taken their place, injury periods are extended, or it’s simply called something different. 

The big difference is that we have decided to be open about this. Because we need to push for a change in the industry to acknowledge the need for giving players the chance to have a life, to become parents, to rest when they are ill, and to recharge physically and mentally every once in a while. We now hear from other players that they are happy that this taboo is being broken down and we will continue to talk about it.

It is not a healthy industry when teams and players are punished for taking breaks and being substituted no matter the reason. It is not healthy for the ecosystem, that players are called in as stand-ins only to be under even more pressure in a new environment with new teammates and a different way of playing. It is not healthy that we have leading members of the scene making it a business to call out players with burn-outs liars. It’s putting even more pressure on the players as fans buy into the conspiracies and make the players or teams the villains. It is not fair, it is destructive, and we all need to help change this culture.

Just like we have done for the last 4 years, we will continue to invest in building a strong and solid foundation around our teams and players. We are here for the long run and we want to have top teams today, tomorrow and in 2, 5, and 20 years! The work continues for us and for other organizations who are making these changes, making sacrifices short-term to protect the players and teams in the long term.

We have come a long way, but we have much more ground to cover. Increasing the roster size for the benefit of players, fans and the industry must be the next step. 

We should have done it a long time ago.

- Kasper Hvidt, Director of Sports, Astralis Group

Kasper Hvidt and the Astralis team on a team building boootcamp, January 2020.