GG Licorice opens up about the mental strain of being an LCS veteran

Carver Fisher

After Golden Guardians’ fourth win in a row, Dexerto caught up with veteran top laner Licorice. He revealed that, despite having confidence in his team, he’s been struggling to get into the right mood on stage. What followed was a candid account of the struggles that can come along with being a long-time LCS competitor.

Eric ‘Licorice’ Ritchie has been playing for a long time, longer than most players that are competing in the LCS. He started on amateur teams in 2015 and has been an LCS starter since 2017. For more than half a decade, League of Legends has been a massive part of his life.

However, his mentality when it comes to the game has changed. What started as a conversation about the meta and how he felt about his performance with the team thus far eventually led to a very candid discussion about his progression both as a player and a person, and how his mentality about getting on stage has changed through the years.

Mental health is something that isn’t often talked about in esports, but Licorice was gracious enough to talk openly about his experience going through therapy over the past few years and learning how to make his career more sustainable.

To be clear, Licorice has a ton of confidence in his team and their ability to perform. But he doesn’t always share that same confidence in his individual play, and has been working through how to be the best player (and person) he can be.

Licorice thinks Golden Guardians is the best team in the LCS

Golden Guardians didn’t have a great start. Young, their substitute mid laner, had a pretty stellar showing all things considered, but it felt like they weren’t quite able to come together as a team without their newly-signed mid laner, Gori. But, even then, there were doubts that Gori would be able to come in and fix all of Golden Guardians’ issues after a 0-4 start.

Now, with him on the team, they have the longest LCS win streak currently at 5 wins following FlyQuest’s loss to TSM. They’ve completely turned things around. Where did GG find the motivation to turn things around, and how did they improve so fast?

“We’ve been working on a lot of things in scrims. We started 0-4, and that’s a lot of motivation to improve fast. No one wants to turn that 0-4 into 0-6. We’ve been improving a lot with team concepts and working together, playing together. And having Gori helps, he’s really good.”

When asked about where he ranks Golden Guardians currently, he didn’t hesitate to answer.

“First place.”

“I mean, of course that can change with patches and everything, but right now, based on scrims and how my team’s playing on stage, first place.”

When asked about top lane and his individual performance separate from his team, Licorice spoke about trying new picks like Lee Sin, but ultimately thinks that we’ll be looking at a tank meta; we both groaned at this one, with him saying “it is what it is.” This led to a conversation about how much impact he thinks top lane has on the map, and whether or not he’s satisfied with how much his role can affect the game.

While Licorice said he’s having fun with the game right now and has enjoyed trying new things, he went into detail about his personal struggles with finding ways to improve and getting into the right mood to play.

There’s more to being a pro player than just the game

Everyone has a different way of handling stage nerves. Some teams buckle beneath the pressure of playing on a big stage or at international events, while others thrive in an environment where they can see the crowd and hear them cheering.

But it’s an often held misconception that players just get used to playing on stage, that there’s a linear path to entirely eliminating stage nerves or finding ways to deal with them. Licorice isn’t happy with the way he’s playing right now, but there’s more to working on that than just practicing and finding in-game solutions.

“I’ve mostly been focused on the way it feels up on stage if that makes sense. Like nerves, energy, getting the right vibes for stage. I felt like I did a much better job of that today, but then I lost my lane and… that was sad. I haven’t been super happy with my performance so far — I’m getting leads in a lot of games, but I’m also making some mistakes most games as well. So I’m not consistently pushing a lead in a lot of these games and I think I could be. That’s where a lot of my focus is.”

Licorice discussing Golden Guardians’ recent hot streak alongside Huhi

With that in mind, we asked Licorice about how the ways in which he’s trying to improve and the direction he was going in practice. Did he feel like he wasn’t doing enough to push his lead, or was he doing too much?

“I think it’s more about playing more calmly, or dialing things down a little bit. I was feeling pressured on stage, at least until today. I think— you saw things like the Renekton lane vs CLG, where I had a huge lead in lane and then I walked up when he had his Q charged up, and just died for free. It’s things like that that I’m more just trying to keep my cool on stage. I know I’m a good laner if I can get my lead and hold onto it.”

Pressure can manifest itself in many ways, and it’s possible for a player to thrive under that stress one day and buckle beneath it the next. We asked where this pressure to perform was coming from, and whether the kind of pressure he’s feeling is new for him.

“I think it’s actually related to… I’ve been going to therapy for a couple years now, and it’s like, as I start to feel different, I get kind of confused about how I’m supposed to feel on stage. So… It’s been a really weird experience for me.”

“When I first started, stage was really stressful and that was really good for my performance. But like, as I’ve changed and grown older it’s gotten a lot different. It could be related to aging, but I feel like I’m constantly having to figure out how I want to set up a match day in order to feel good on stage and have my best performance. That’s something I’m still working out right now.”

Licorice hugging Blaber at Worlds 2018

Simply put, the way that Licorice approaches playing on stage has changed. Where he was once able to take stress and harness it, he’s now had to change his mentality. What worked for him in the past isn’t working now.

We didn’t ask for details about why he decided to start going to therapy, but we did ask him about his goals with trying to improve his mental health and how close he feels that he is to reaching those goals.

For 2023, Licorice wants to improve both his performance as a player and his happiness as a person to make his career as long and prosperous as it can be.

“I think therapy is good. I think a lot more people would benefit from therapy than actually go. It just helps you be happier, you know? It’s like the science of being happy. So I’m like, ‘I’m into that!’ (laughs) They’re like, ‘Well, we studied millions of people and this is what you should do’, and I’m like, ‘Alright, cool, hell yeah!’”

“For me, I’ve been playing for a long time. It’s just like, if I’m not enjoying myself and enjoying my life, it’s not sustainable for being a pro player. I’m trying to be a good happy human and a good pro player, so I’m trying to have it all.”

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