I don’t feel like we necessarily have set roles at FC Schalke 04 Esports, but if I had to specify a role for myself it would be: ‘to lead by example’.
At the start of the split, I fulfilled that role. By being solid in the mid lane, I could be the anchor for the team and a voice of reason for my teammates. We were ahead of the curve.
I think everyone expected Schalke to be one of the EU LCS’ strongest teams in Spring and when we won our first game convincingly with a substitute AD and support, it looked like we would match up to those expectations.
Our primary strength was our laning phase. Where we needed to improve was how we snowballed our leads from winning lanes into the later stages of the game, which wasn’t something we had worked on during pre-season and so we opted to dedicate a lot of our practice time towards improving that aspect of our play.
In honesty, another of our biggest strengths at the beginning of the split was my own personal performance. I felt good at the start of the split, I was focussed and dedicated to my practice and it showed in our on-stage results; I was playing really well.
We were focussing so much of our scrim and practice time towards improving our team’s weaknesses, however, that I think we actually ended up forgetting these strengths and over time, we lost our edge. Ultimately, we ended up with nothing: we had lost touch with what made us a strong team and at the same time, had failed to develop new strategies, despite dedicating nearly all of our time to that goal.
My personal performances suffered too. I had become so fixated on trying to solve our issues and trying to improve the performance of my teammates, that I had lost sight of my own play. By the end of the split, I was playing so poorly that I was the one causing our defeats.
I first started to notice our downturn around the middle of the split. We had known from the season’s outset that we had a lot to work on – we didn’t think that we were perfect in any way – but what was concerning, was that when we tried to work on stuff, it didn’t feel like we got any closer to solving our issues.
We just weren’t clicking as a team. As to why, I still find it hard to identify one particular reason, really it was just that the core of our team – the five players, but also our coaching staff – were all trying everything to find the winning formula, but nothing was working. The team dynamic we had was not suitable for how we were trying to learn and play.
If anything, as the split went on, we just got progressively worse, to the point where I felt we were one of the worst teams in the league by the end of spring.
It isn’t the first time that I’ve experienced team synergy issues during my career. With Team Vitality, we had a few internals spats and clashes, but for the most part, the organisation was quite hands-off. Once it was apparent that we weren’t a good team, the focus was just to suck it up and get through the split; cut our losses and hold off on making any major changes.
Schalke’s management has certainly been a lot more proactive in trying to fix things throughout the split, but at a certain point, you just have to see out the split and wait until the off-season before making any more changes.
At that point, it becomes less about the team’s motivation and more about being professional. Whether you feel that you have something to play for or not doesn’t come into the equation, when you’re a professional player, you give it your best regardless. I’ve always enjoyed playing on stage, it’s always exciting to play for an audience, no matter the stakes of the game.
Schalke is an organisation with high expectations and of course, there are ‘higher-ups’ who are looking for us to find success and be a genuine contender. Our inability to reach the Spring Split playoffs was considered a failure and forced them to instigate changes.
Everyone involved sat down for a retro at the end of the split to discuss what could be improved for the summer. The dynamic between the two coaches was highlighted and on the players’ part, it was mostly individual feedback rather than things to improve upon as a team.
For me, it’s really important that I reach the same level of play that I achieved in the early stages of the Spring Split since it was during that period that I felt I had the greatest and most positive impact on our team’s results. If we’re to post better results this time around, I’ll need to rediscover that form.
One thing that was clear to me was that if we went into the Summer Split with the same lineup and the same preparation that we had in Spring, we were going to experience the exact same problems and the exact same result; something needed to change.
I had to place my trust in my coaches; trust that they would make the right decisions and that they would do what’s best for the team, with a more objective overview. I wasn’t actively thinking about off-season changes during the split myself, as there’s no benefit to having that mindset when you still have games to play together as a team.
We’re trying to change how we operate now and obviously, the management has decided to make a roster swap in the jungle in the hope that it will produce a better team dynamic.
There were a lot of teams at the start of the split who we considered ourselves to be better than, but after a few weeks they had quickly surpassed us since they had created the conditions to improve as a team. For Schalke’s Summer Split, we need to find the balance where we consolidate our strengths but keep improving and moving forward.
Our ambitions for summer are the same as they were for spring. We want to become a strong team together, creating an environment where we can always improve and get progressively better together – that’s the most important thing for any competitive team. I’m confident that we’ll manage to mesh together this time around and find the winning dynamic.
I intend to keep playing for a long time yet. I’m soon to be 22, but provided I put in the hours, I know that I still have the mechanical level to compete with the best. Work hard and keep enjoying the game, that’s my foreseeable future. I don’t see any reason to stop.
Image Credit: Riot Games