OG’s psychologist Mia Stellberg at TI9: “The OG guys are not affected by the cliches of esports”

It happened on the 25th of August 2019. OG became the first ever team to claim the Aegis of Champions twice. They did in a spectacular fashion and they are now the only team to be back to back TI Champions, a record which has a lot of chances to stay in place for a while. 

Behind OG’s incredible work for TI9 there is a person who boasts a lot of other incredible results. For the hardcore Dota 2 fans she might have gone unnoticed, however, those who follow esports through different disciplines, Mia Stellberg  is the synonym for success stories. 

Mia works in both sports, where she prepared athletes for the Olympics, but also shares the passion for esports and has been an important part of the Astralis and more recently ENCE’s success in CS:GO. She works with SK Gaming in League of Legends, and when her fellow citizens JerAx and Topson felt that OG needs a psychologist, she answered the call without hesitation. 

We’ve been fortunate to meet Mia Stellberg after the group stage matches at The International 2019 and we took the opportunity to ask her where OG was standing on an emotional and psychological level going into the Main Event.

Hello Mia and thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Thank you for having me.

I found out very recently that you joined OG and to start our interview, I’d like to ask you how did this happen, how and when did you join them?

I’m from Finland, so the path to OG was quite short since we have two players from Finland, Topson and JerAx. Obviously, we know each other and they approached me. After that, one thing led to another and now I’m in Shanghai with OG.

They didn’t talk about it until they arrived here so, could you tell us when did you actually start to work with them?

I’ve been working with the team for a couple of months now. I was with them in the bootcamp where we’ve been preparing for this event together.

All the esports teams you worked with have been super successful so, in that regard, it makes a lot of sense to me to see you now at the biggest Dota 2 tournament with OG. They are a team that won four Majors in row a few years back, they have the TI8 story that will probably never be matched, all members of the current OG are very special and humble people, so how do you work with them, what is that they need from a psychologist?

All individual players have their strengths and weaknesses and teams are always changing and evolving, I think one of the most important things as an esports psychologist is to stabilize their results  and make them more predictable in that sense. We should only have good days.

 In Dota 2, no matter how much you think you know your opponent, you still have a huge chance to be surprised and The International is the perfect example for that. This is what drives every player nuts every year, the TI nerves, emotions, anxiety are recurring topics. Are you working with the OG players on this aspect? 

Of course. I mean, TI always wakes up quite many emotions in all players. For them it’s an honor to be here and the tournament puts a lot of stress on them. So yes, everybody needs to be well prepared to be able to handle that and I also think that a smart player can change the pressure to work for him, not against him. The pressure can make you be a better version of yourself. That comes with the years.

It’s interesting to hear this because I think last year’s TI was for OG a mix of anger, desire for revenge and a huge desire to prove something,  while this year I guess it’s more pressure on them, it’s the first time when they will try to write another record, it’s the year when they can become the first team to have won two TIs.

Before anything else, these players love Dota 2. They are eager to win two TI’s, and I didn’t need to touch on that part with them, but they also have a huge passion and love for this game. You have to have a lot of passion for what you do if you want to stay year after year at the highest level. 

I’m sure you know that in the Dota 2 scene we have this thing going on, where we say that whoever does super well in the TI group stage, will have a rough Main Event. As their psychologist are you confident that they will be doing well in the playoffs as well?

Yes, we lost only two games in the entire group stage and I would call that a stellar performance, and I could not wish for a better result. You know what? In esports there are a lot of things that people are saying.” It goes like this or it goes like that, when this happens, that happens”, but I don’t believe in it. I’m a scientist, I’m a person who doesn’t have these kind of beliefs or superstitions. I say that all these events, you enter them and you just do your best every single day without thinking “is this common” or “should I lose or should I win.” So, in that sense, having a very good group stage, actually prepares the team for what’s next to come. 

Obviously, some teams can get too confident, or too cocky, or they can think that they have it all, but the OG players are very humble in all that they do, so I’m not afraid of that at all actually. 

You just told me that you don’t believe in what people say or think of as a “curse”, but I have to ask you about the second Aegis curse. No player has ever won  TI twice. Did they come to talk to you about this. Is the two time TI champions story not happening so far a problem for them? 

No, it’s not a problem. If some other people are thinking about what you could do or what you couldn’t do, it’s actually up to you if you listen to those people. The OG guys don’t listen to the opinions about them, they do what they want to do, they are independent, smart people and they are not affected by the cliches of esports.

Alright, then we will end our interview with that and I’m looking forward to their performance in the Main Event.