Breaking a losing streak is never easy. Even the most experienced competitors can struggle to recover when they’re stuck in a rut and they can’t seem to find a win.
It’s an especially difficult obstacle to overcome for a new team with a mixed roster, and some of the youngest players in the league to boot. The Guangzhou Charge entered Week 3 of Stage 2 staring down the barrel of a new record for the longest map-loss streak. They narrowly avoided it by winning two maps against the Hangzhou Spark, then found their first victory of the stage later that week in a grueling series against the Atlanta Reign.
For team captain Jeong-Yeon "Chara" Kim, that victory brought relief, and being able to bounce back from such a crushing losing streak was a sign of the team’s growth and mental fortitude.
"The players and coaches had a hard time [during the losing streak], but we always have meetings and discussions to share questions, problems, and solutions," he said. "We always talk about how we’re never going to give up. That’s how we cheered ourselves up, and that’s how we were able to overcome the losing streak."
At just 20 years old, Chara is one of the oldest players on the Charge roster, which has an average age of around 18. This has made him the de facto leader for the other players, especially the Korean players, whom he refers to as his "younger brothers."
He’s modest about his contributions to the team, attributing the team’s mentality to the mutual respect that the players have built.
"I’m the captain, but I’m not doing that much—it’s just that since I’m older, the other players listen to me more," he said. "It’s not that hard to lead our team. The most important thing is that the players help and respect each other."
Leading a new roster full of young players who speak different languages poses a unique set of challenges, but Chara has a fair amount of professional experience to draw upon. He began his career in early 2017 as part of Korean team Meta Bellum and led the team through two seasons of qualifiers for OGN APEX, the most prominent Overwatch tournament in Korea at the time. Eventually the squad successfully qualified for APEX Season 4, but failed to make it past the group stage, falling back into relegation.
Despite the suboptimal result in APEX, Meta Bellum was able to rally and secure back-to-back semifinal finishes in Contenders Korea Seasons 1 and 2 under Chara’s steady guidance. Chara played with Meta Bellum as their captain and shot-caller for nearly two years before being signed to the Guangzhou Charge alongside teammates Jeong-Woo "Happy" Lee, Seung-Pyo "Rio" Oh, and Won-Jae "Rise" Lee.
Chara’s experience as a leader has prepared him well for the captain role that he’s taken on with the Charge, but he’s still working hard to overcome the language barrier that has been one of the team’s biggest issues.
"We’re an international team with Chinese speakers, English speakers, and Korean speakers," he explained. "Right now we have to speak English, so I’ve been studying a lot harder and learning a lot more."
The losing streak may have been rough on the Charge, especially after just narrowly missing the Stage 1 Playoffs, but Chara knows it’s a marathon, not a sprint. His sights are set firmly on long-term development and building a successful team starting from the basics, rather than looking for shortcuts.
"Of course it’s important to have good results and show a good performance in-game, but the most important thing for us is building our fundamentals and team culture as well as improving communication," he said. "That’s why we have to focus more on that so that later on we can have a better performance."
It’s not all work and no play for Chara, though; for one, being a part of the Overwatch League has given him the chance to live in a different country, something he’s welcomed with open arms.
"I like to travel around and visit other places, and now that I’m in the Overwatch League, I’ve been adjusting really well and having a lot of fun," he said.
Guangzhou will miss their second chance at stage playoffs, but for Chara, the longer break may be a blessing in disguise. Before the season began, he tweeted about wanting to make new friends. Unfortunately, the team’s location and busy schedule has made the search for new friends difficult.
OWL guys!- Be my friend!! I want to make a lot of new friend in LA— GZ Charge Chara (@Chara_RRRing) January 30, 2019
"I wanted to make new friends and I tried to, but where we live, there’s pretty much only our neighbors so we can’t really go out and enjoy the city," Chara said bashfully. "I’m still waiting for a vacation or break to make new friends."
He made sure to specify what kinds of friends he was looking for. "I mean, friends who aren’t in the Overwatch League and aren’t pro gamers. Normal friends!"
With the mental pressure of the losing streak now off his shoulders and a much-needed break on the horizon, Chara is determined to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given and is ready to lead the Charge to even greater heights in the latter half of the season.
"In the league right now, a lot of support players from top teams are very well-known, and I want to be one of them," he said. "When people think of main supports, I want them to think of me."