Coming Home

When I started on this journey in esports, I was just testing the waters.

If I didn’t like it, I’d just go back to school to finish my finance degree and eventually my corporate law degree. Becoming a corporate lawyer was always my goal – doing mergers and acquisitions and the like. Quite different from where I ended up!

Before I “made it” with that 17-1 split on TSM during Summer 2016, it wasn’t all plain sailing. On the way up, I was just trying to play with any team that would take me.

I tried out for Cloud9 Challenger and CLG Challenger and playing so badly that they’d pick up an ADC player and turn them into a support, instead of picking me.

That’s not a nice feeling, let me tell you. Eventually, I got a chance to prove myself with Final Five – later renamed to Vortex – which was owned by Coast…it was a sketchy experience.

I wasn’t in the team house, but playing remotely with them, and all of the players thought I was really bad. It was me, BillyBoss, Bischu, Shernfire, Veritas, and k0u. At one point I tried to get out of my contract with them, but the team didn’t budge.

After combing through the contract itself I was able to find a way to get out of it. It was just a relief to put the experience behind me, I didn’t expect it to eventually lead into a trial with TSM.

Kind of.

They offered me a tryout right when my school semester was ending during my sophomore year. I went to Korea with them to see how it turned out, but I was still taking exams at the time. I was flying back-and-forth between Toronto and Korea, studying while I travelled.

But I didn’t know at the time that TSM had basically brought me out to be a filler for the team. If the other tryouts couldn’t make the scrims then I would fill in for them. It wasn’t the legitimate chance that I thought it was. It was never intended to be, at least.

The silver lining was that I still got to go to Korea, watch scrims, take part in-game analysis, and play with some really talented players. As far as I know, the only other trialist who played particularly well was IgNar.

But my benefits did start to show through. Obviously, I’m a native that speaks the language. Mechanically, myself and IgNar weren’t too far apart in skill level, and I didn’t take up an import slot.

So as it happened, I joined a team full of veterans as a complete rookie. And it’s different from being a rookie on other teams, the expectations and pressure of being on TSM is something else entirely.

TSM has been very successful historically, and there is a legacy to live up to and uphold.

People expect more out of you when you’re on TSM. They expect you to put more hours into the game and to be more accountable for your mistakes. They want you to put in 110% into what you’re doing.

Maybe on some other orgs you could coast through with less, not saying that they’re not awesome, but on TSM there’s this feeling like there’s this shadow behind you that’s constantly watching what you’re doing and if you’re not doing the right thing you will be punished.

There was that constant negative connotation where you’re scared to make mistakes. It’s not unique to TSM by any means, but I remember feeling like shit whenever I made a mistake on TSM as a rookie.

I became a lot more comfortable speaking my mind when I moved to CLG. I don’t think I would have ever done that on TSM, even if I felt like I was saying the right thing.

But when I joined CLG, I wasn’t going in as a rookie; I was going into it as a player who had played for two years and I knew I could be whoever I wanted to be. I felt more comfortable as myself.

Without the roster of veterans that TSM had, it allowed me to develop my leadership skills a lot more. I started making calls in-game and voicing my opinion during team meetings.

There’s no doubt that my time with CLG helped me mature as both a player and a person. Switching teams gave me a different perspective and a chance to reinvent myself.

You can definitely get too comfortable if you don’t change things up from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t accomplish much while I was on CLG. Our goal in the last split with them was to make Worlds, but we didn’t make it out of the gauntlet. Rejoining TSM gave me a much better chance of accomplishing my goals.

Being back with TSM is wildly different from when I was with them as a rookie. Two years ago, TSM was a super team. They had that aura, they were the favorites and expected to win everything. But this time around, we’re no longer the favorites.

We’re the underdogs trying to reclaim our place at the top. There’s a little less pressure, and we can focus a lot more on our gameplay.

We are all hungry to win on TSM. The team is bonding really well, and our mix of personalities is really helping us work together.

Broken Blade is lighthearted and brightens the mood, Bjergsen leads the charge and keeps everyone accountable. Dardoch is mechanically gifted and loved the game. The same goes for Kobbe, it’s his first time in the US and he’s looking to prove himself.

The five of us, despite our differences, share the same goal of winning and will do whatever it takes to get there. The old standard of success is still there, but it’s up to us to bring the team back to where it belongs – at the very top.

We all understand what it means to be on TSM.

My personal goal is to get TSM back to the international stage and give a good account of ourselves. Worlds is a crucible where you have to adapt to changing metas and new styles from other regions, and we have to do better in that environment.

Individually, my performances at Worlds have been bad, and I need the chance to redeem myself.

I have to do it for myself, but also for my team, and for everyone that has supported me along the way.

I read every message that you send me, and it means a lot when you tell me that you’re watching, win or lose, because the positivity really can drown out the negative comments. So don’t stop sending them, and know that I do appreciate all of you.

Editors Note: This article was produced before the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent temporary suspension of the LCS.

Jeff Yabumoto assisted with the creation of this article

Photo Credit: Riot Games

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