Esports Team Added To University Athletic Department

Published on: January 04, 2021

Esports, which is a form of competitive multiplayer video gaming, has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years. The advent of live streaming, in particular, saw a surge in the popularity of this hobby. Esports has gained the most recognition in China and South Korea, but other countries are also catching up as more professional players and teams emerge. However, labeling video games as “sports” is still a controversial subject despite efforts by promoters and organizers. There have been strides made in this area in recent years with some countries, such as the Phillippines issuing athletic licenses to Filipino esports players and esports expected to become a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.

A shift in the way that the United States views esports also appears to be happening, especially in the light of how the covid-19 pandemic is interrupting regular sports. For example, in March of last year, NASCAR held their first-ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series Invitational, which featured real Nascar drivers taking to virtual tracks in races that aired on Fox Sports. Some basketball stars also took part in tournaments that were set up by the NBA game developer, 2K Games, and the National Basketball Players Association. Even ESPN, a bastion for traditional sports, has been airing hours of esports content to fill the void created by covid-19. A lot of it is traditional sports, such as football and racing, but even shooters like Apex Legends and League of Legends have been aired.

Gaming has always been a popular pastime at universities, but Concordia University Nebraska is taking things to the next level. Earlier this year they announced that they have added an esports team to their athletic department for the first time. This decision was made to reach more prospective students and while some high schools in Nebraska already offer esports there are not many colleges that do. According to the Vice President of Student Affairs and Athletics at Concordia it works like any other team and players have to earn a scholarship to be on the team. It also involves coaching, film watching, and working with team members. Their head coach also compared it to any other regular sport with match days that has a match preview and actual match. The season is expected to start in February and already athletes are practicing daily from about 3:30 to 6 p.m to get ready.

Turning to esports makes sense for universities and colleges as the close contact required for traditional sports are out of the question. A common complaint among students is that the covid-19 pandemic has shattered the sense of community offered by universities and embracing esports is one way to help reestablish this. Not only can competitions be held without any close contact between students, but players can also compete against others without having to travel as with traditional sports. For universities, it can drive student enrollment while for students there is a renewed sense of competition and camaraderie, which is becoming rare during this pandemic.

There is still a lot that has to be done before esports reach the same respect and recognition as physical sports, but there has never been a better time than now for this to happen. For schools with emerging esports programs, it can be a challenge to outfit their teams with the high-end equipment required to compete from home, but others such as the Boise State, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine were all able to do so successfully. One thing is for sure, esports is here to stay and will continue to grow as it becomes more mainstream.

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