People always say that careers in this industry are short.
They say that the retirement age for esports players is somewhere around 25.
I was 16 when I first got salaried to play Overwatch competitively. And I don’t plan on retiring any time soon. I’ll be here at the top for as long as I can.
The career of a pro has its fair share of pitfalls, many of which can setback or end a career if you don’t deal with them properly.
This life started for me when I decided to stop playing soccer in high school. I know a lot of people say things like: “I could have been pro!”, but I was actually a good player. Colleges were scouting me, and because of my good grades, I could have chosen a pretty easy path into college through a scholarship.
Unfortunately, I simply didn’t enjoy playing soccer anymore. My mom was disappointed in that decision because it really was an easy path into college. But more than anything, she just wants to see me do stuff I enjoy. That’s why she’s such a super fan now.
The one rule we did have was that I had to complete high school.
There are a couple of other players that dropped out to compete, but it was non-negotiable for me. I had to complete high school with good grades and send out my college applications before I committed to this career.
There was a little bit of a crossover where I was travelling to events while I was still in school. To get around that, I had to switch to online schooling and finish high school that way.
Life on my first salaried team, Renegades, wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The infrastructure for Overwatch at the time wasn’t great, and there were exactly zero LAN tournaments to attend. The joke back then was that NA players were being paid to scrim.
It often felt like there was this invisible wall between the competitive levels.
Even though not a lot was happening in the game, I changed a lot during that period. I was always good at critical thinking and general leadership, but competing in Overwatch definitely helped me develop my ability to convey my thoughts clearly to other people.
When I was a kid I had a pretty small friendship group. I never had to socialize outside of that group really. Now, I can hold a conversation with people I don’t know, and that’s not something I would have developed if I wasn’t thrown into the deep end.
I’m glad I learned it then, because facing media duty when you have no prior experience of it is quite jarring.
Answering questions for people was never a problem, but being consistent and comfortable in that environment was different. It’s something I had to adjust to really quickly when I signed with Fusion University.
Social media also changes a lot when you make it onto an OWL team.
There are so many more eyes on you than before, and the people mostly either love you or hate you. All the neutral people are the ones who aren’t reading or commenting on your posts.
You definitely have to learn how to block out the bad, especially if you’re one of those people that lives and dies on what strangers say about you.
There are people out there who will just say the most horrid things to you on the internet, but then you meet them at a LAN or some event and they’re the nicest person in the world. You just block those people online and move on with your life.
And if it ever does get too much? You have your team!
They play such a large role in your life once you’re in esports – especially if you live in a team house. Everyone in the Dallas Fuel is like my family now.
The homestand event in Dallas during Stage 2 is something that stands out for me. There was some pressure there – playing in front of the home crowd – and we all came together to give our fans the result we wanted.
Don’t even get me started on the fans and the people you meet. It’s one of the aspects of gaming and esports that I love so much. Whether it’s in person or while you’re streaming, you get to meet so many people from around the world that you never would have met otherwise.
Each one of them making the experience even more enjoyable and worth it.
As I said, I plan on being in esports for a long time. I’m going to stay at the top of my game, making sure to watch out for the pitfalls along the way.
The minor injuries that can snowball into serious issues, lack of motivation, and making sure I’m always striving to be the best. As soon as you lose that passion to play it fades away and is hard to reclaim.
When I finally do move on, I hope it’s as a full-time streamer where I get to build my own community. That, or becoming a desk analyst.
Until then, I’m going to continue to do my best and make my fans proud.
Image Credit: Overwatch League/Robert Paul
Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article