Stepping Up

It was about 1 AM when HuK called me and told me the news.

I was still in the UK at the time, but I had just found out that I was going to play in the Overwatch League.

There are a lot of emotions you could ascribe to that moment when I found out I would play for the Boston Uprising, but the clearest thought I had was: Damn, gotta get ready.”

Obviously, being called up to play in the Overwatch League is something that’s always existed in the back of my mind. I’m a great Reinhardt player, and we’re in a Reinhardt meta, so this was the best chance I’d have really.

That’s not to say that I thought it was likely. Some people thought it might happen after the Overwatch World Cup last year when I played with the United Kingdom.

That tournament was something else. We played really well as a team and took some big names down.

Of course, the moment we defeated Team USA was crazy. Pretty much everyone had written us off, for good reason really. But we did it.

Despite that game, I still think that our best performance was against South Korea. It’s just a fact really that South Korea had the best team in the world, and all of us on Team UK put in a top performance.

Even though I had newfound confidence after the Overwatch World Cup, I still didn’t feel like I had proven myself enough.

I thought that might come from playing in Contenders, but while it was fun at times, largely it was a frustrating experience. There was high ping from playing in the UK after Visa issues and a noticeable step down in the level of competition from the World Cup.

It was important to me that I had a decent start in the Overwatch League. Even though I’d done well against top players at other events, no one really expected me to be anything more than a C-level tank player. Not good enough, basically.

Before my debut against NYXL, I just wanted to do my best for the team. I wasn’t interested in being noticed, or “surprising people”. I’d only arrived two days prior, and had one day of practice.

Not that anyone expected us to win anyway. NYXL was number one in the power rankings…we were 18th or something. Outside of the natural pressure of making my debut, it did feel slightly freeing. Although I was pretty nervous about facing players like Mano.

In the beginning, I idolized players like Fragi and Miro. Nowadays, I look up to Mano. He is just beyond consistent and doesn’t let the fact that he’s on the best team get to his head.

One of the most important things for me was getting to know all the Uprising players and their personalities. If you want to be a leader it’s not enough to just fit yourself into the team and the communications and have people adjust around you.

I like being reliable for my teammates, and I like being able to lead my team. It’s part of my identity as a player. If there’s ever a situation where the team feels like they can’t rely on me, I’ve lost part of my own quality.

Now, I like to think I’m in a place where I understand everyone quite well. I’m able to help people out when they’re down.

I’m even giving pep talks now!

When we were down 0-2 against Toronto, I knew that we had it in us to pull off the reverse sweep. So I told them that. I told them that we didn’t have a chance until we became confident in our play and our ideas.

And then we reverse-swept Toronto Defiant.

Now, at the end of Stage 2, I feel like I’ve proved that I have the talent to compete at this level. There have been ups and downs, but I feel like I belong in this league now.

There have been bad moments – like when I played Winston against the London Spitfire. I watch that game back and know that I could have been better. They did a good job of shutting us down, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Games like that don’t help my image as a “Reinhardt only” player, which is something I’m trying to move away from. I know I can play Winston and Wrecking Ball at the level needed to compete in this league. And while I might not be as flexible as I’d like to be, I have progressed a lot.

That opening weekend feels like a lifetime ago. I’m so much more confident in myself. It can be tough to see that individual progression when you are struggling as a team, but I’m learning to try and separate the two and keep my head high.

It helps that I haven’t really noticed anyone having a go at us or flaming us for our losses. Maybe I just haven’t noticed the bad side, but from what I can see the vast majority of our fans have been fantastic. I hope that all of them know that we are putting in the work to turn these results around.

Ultimately, I want to be someone that other players or even fans, can look up to.

When the analysts point at me, I want people to respect me as one of the best tank players.

When someone says: “Who’s the best tank in the Overwatch League?”

I want my name to be the first that comes to mind.

Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article.

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