Leading By Example

At the end of Stage 2, I got the call from Kyky. He told me that they had received a trade offer from Valiant; they wanted to do a straight trade of Unkoe and me. Kyky told me Valiant didn’t want anyone else, Fuel had offered others, but Valiant wanted me.

The news was hard to hear from a team that I’d worked so hard with, but once I started talking to people I realised that going to a new team could be a good opportunity for me; Fuel really needed a Zen player. As far as I’m aware, they still wanted me on the roster, but I feel like they thought they needed Unkoe more.

I can’t be mad at that, I agreed that they needed a good Zen player who knows how to the play the role and it means they don’t have to commit resources to helping Chips or Harry get really good at Zen.

It was hard to keep my morale up in the first two stages playing for Fuel. We were a team who were expected to do so well and then we bombed at the very beginning of the season. It’s difficult to keep positive when everything you’re trying and all the effort you’re putting in just isn’t showing any success, so in a way, it was nice to get out of that, but it was also great working through those troubles at the time with the guys at Fuel by my side.

I still love Fuel, I really love the team and I love the people there. They brought me into the roster at a point when the Overwatch League was just starting up and it was ‘make or break’. They welcomed me in and I’m fortunate that they gave me exposure on stage and helped me find my feet at the top level. It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but also one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Being told about the trade was kind of rough at first, but I’m happy now. Everything I had heard indicated that Valliant really wanted me on the team – it’s a lot more fulfilling, going from a team who wants to trade you out, to a team who really wants you and have a specific role for you to fill. All of a sudden, you have this path you can follow, it’s a lot more exciting.

On Valiant, I definitely feel that we have the ability to compete with the best teams in the league and beat them. We have a good playoffs run ahead of us and in a few months, when playoffs start, we’ll be even more prepared. Right now, we’re still in that honeymoon period where everything is new and we’re trying to find our feet and overcome some issues. If we can get through all that and still be even a fraction of the team we are now, I think we’ll be able to show everyone that we can compete for those top spots.

The key to success in Overwatch League is having an incredibly good team structure and players who are focussed on improving and functioning as a team; it’s not the best mechanical players or any of the small things that make a great team, it’s the players that work best as a unit that is going to win the league.

Language and cultural barriers are a major problem right now, but I think the league will find a way to overcome them in the future. In terms of integrating and helping Korean and Western players, Valiant is doing a better job than Fuel was. Valiant have a translator available 24/7 and everyone respects each other enough to let them do things in their own way. Everything is done in both English and Korean, so it feels like everyone is involved at all times.

At Fuel, every now and then we would have lengthy discussions in English, so you couldn’t expect the Koreans to follow along. You could tell there was a major disconnect between the Western and Korean players because every time we had these major discussions it was either fully in English or fully in Korean; at every point, one half was getting left out. It was definitely a hindrance to the team.

There are a lot of players in OWL who have really been caught out over the course of this season. They’ve sort of coasted by, not given everything 100% or haven’t been able to work with other people. There are a lot of players stuck in old mindsets, who aren’t willing to compromise their morals and the way they’ve done things in the past. We’ve seen a lot of great names from the pre-Overwatch League era falling out of favour because they can’t function within the league environment.

Essentially, you’re talking about a group of people who all play video games and who are used to staying up till 4 am and getting up at noon. Besides scrims, there’s been no real major structure in their lives before Overwatch League, they’ve not had to live, move and travel all the time. So having this set schedule, with all these changes and matches played twice weekly, meant that a lot of people weren’t ready for how tiring or taxing Overwatch League was going to be.

People thought the players would simply adjust, but for some players, that’s not been the case. You almost need to take control of their life and essentially tell them what to do. That’s why you see players who still don’t have furniture or even the ability to live in their own apartments.

On Valiant, we have a lot of younger players, so I’m trying to lead by example and show them things they can do to get themselves in the right place. As much as management helps a lot with that, having a player who everyone can mimic and copy is good for the team. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’ll take time to integrate, but I just want to help get these young players in the right mindset.

Fuel kind of wanted a leader, but the biggest problem was that it’s a very old team and a lot of people were stuck in their old habits, for the most part, they didn’t want someone who was speaking for on their behalf or trying to be a guiding figure.

Who knows where the future will lead. For now, I’m just focused on being a player and playing for as long as I can. I want to be someone who’s respected in the Overwatch League. There’s a lot of players who will be easily forgotten, but when people think of the league, I want Custa to be a name that everyone knows and remembers.

Image Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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