It’s no secret that my career has had a lot of ups and downs.
Mostly downs, if I’m being honest, but I never let them stop me.
Before my return to the LEC this split, I was away from the top level for four years. I didn’t play in the LCS or the LEC at all after MrRalleZ replaced me on Team ROCCAT in 2015.
I made a lot of mistakes back then. I wasn’t mentally strong enough yet.
Before playing in the European LCS, I spent a long enough time in the Challenger Series to develop some bad habits. The kind of habits that LCS players did not let me get away with. I spent a lot of time staring at a grey screen wondering what I did wrong.
At the highest level, you always have to be aware of how the opponents can catch you. If you step forward, can they flash onto you? Can they CC you? Can they kill you?
In the challenger scene, bad positioning isn’t punished as much, so you have to pick it up quickly when you progress to the next level. I wasn’t able to do that.
Too young, too excited, too explosive. The only thing I wanted to do was make a “big play”. Even if the game was balanced on a knife-edge, and a mistake meant certain defeat, I still tried to go for the risky play.
My understanding of the role was wrong. In my mind, I was doing a FORG1VEN cosplay with crazy amounts of damage. In reality, my positioning and gameplay weren’t as good as his.
To succeed, I had to fix my mistakes. Luckily, I am very stubborn in my pursuits. If I want something, I don’t really stop until I get there.
I found the best way to improve was to interact with as many knowledgeable people as possible. Sports psychologists, coaches, players – whoever could help me better myself.
One of the best things I learned in that period was how to handle my whole life much better – something that young players don’t understand usually.
Things like warming up before scrimming, going to the gym or playing sports, and fixing your sleep schedule. Those are all things that helped me improve at the game.
There is no point playing so many solo queue games if you sleep for five hours and wake up tired, but a lot of younger players still do that. In my opinion, practice is all about quality over quantity.
Sleeping enough will help you handle the stress of competing a lot better. I find that pre-game rituals or deep breathing exercises can also help, but that changes from person-to-person.
I know these things because I had to learn. I accepted the help because I saw valuable those contributions could be.
It all helped me tremendously.
My trajectory has only gone upwards since I met my girlfriend too.
My parents – even though they support me – have never been on the sidelines cheering me on. My girlfriend is cheering for me every single day.
There is no doubt in my mind that she helps me play better – because I want to win for her too. If you do read this, Paula, I want to make sure that you know: I love you.
— Paula Zawadzka (@Paula_Zawadzkaa) August 9, 2019
No matter how much I struggled, motivation was never an issue. I’m a strong believer that you can do almost anything you want if you’re willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work for it.
Even in 2018, when I felt like I was stagnating and possibly even decreasing in skill, I stayed positive.
I was delighted when Rogue took a chance on me for their Academy team, and I appreciate them so much for that.
On that team, I was able to reunite with my old partner, VandeR. We had a lot of fun back in the Team ROCCAT days, and we still get along very well together. As a partnership, we’re very positive – when things go wrong we are able to talk through the problem and work together to improve. That’s probably why he liked playing with me!
There was never a rush for me to get back into the LEC. I knew that going too fast could have ended with me humiliating myself and losing the biggest chance I had of a comeback. All of us on the academy team thought that a chance would come soon, but we were patient.
Rogue might not have planned to put me in the main team so soon when they assembled the roster initially, but I’m glad that my hard work paid off when they gave me the chance.
A lot has changed since I was last here. It’s not the EU LCS anymore, the studio is completely different, the quality of the league is higher, and the production is incredible now. The LEC is a much better show than the LCS now, which was the exact opposite of when I was here in 2014/2015.
Everything is much more professional. Now, when you enter the studio, you have your team room with everything you need, whereas before it was a bit “chaotic”. With this new organization, the teams and players have also gotten a lot more professional it feels.
Of course, I also had the chance to catch up with a lot of my former teammates from ROCCAT. Jankos is with G2 Esports, Nukeduck with Orgien, and VandeR with me. Overpow isn’t here anymore but he’s doing well on Twitch – so I think all of old ROCCAT did okay!
It’s a little different from Copenhagen Wolves, as I’m now the only one still playing from that team. Airwaks is a Fortnite player, Youngbuck and Unlimited are coaching, and I honestly have no idea what Cowtard is up to.
Even if people on Reddit think that I’m a meme, I will not quit while I believe that I can compete at this level.
It took me four years, but I eventually made it back to the LEC. Many players would have given up, maybe go back to school – not me.
Thanks to the people I met, I learned from my mistakes and improved. But there is a long journey ahead of me: one day, I want to call myself a Top 3 player in the LEC.
I am not there yet, but I know I can do it – I just need some time to get accustomed to the stage, and to gain respect from other players and do away with the old.
Adel Choudria assisted with the creation of this article.
Image Credits: ROCCAT & Riot Games