Southwestern Community College is plugging in to the next generation with the creation of their own esports team starting this fall in Creston.
Esports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are available recreationally. Competitions are held in either local venues or over the internet.
The activity has been around as long as gaming itself but has began to gain ground as a legitimate sporting competition in recent years. In September, the National Junior College Athletics Association created their esports division, NJCAA eSports, or NJCAAe.
“Right now, the eSports sanctioned by NJCAAe are Madden, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros,” said Doug North, SWCC athletic director. “As this newly-launched association begins to grow, the opportunities for other sports will grow as well.”
North said SWCC is currently exploring their competitive options between NJCAAe and National Association of Collegiate eSports. Schools can have as many teams as they would like. A team can be one person or a team can be whatever is allowed in that particular sport.
“The governing body will dictate the number of players that can/will compete,” said North. “NJCAAe has a schedule for their current sports and right now each sport falls on a different evening to compete. Schools compete head to head over the internet, which will provide unlimited opportunities on who can compete against who and when they can compete.”
North believes the new extracurricular will be a welcome addition to SWCC athletics.
“Esports are a major area of growth and the opportunities will be endless,” said North. “Last time I looked, there are over 25 Iowa high schools that sponsor esports or gaming, so there is a large opportunity to recruit from our community.”
One benefit of esports is the flexibility within SWCC’s athletic schedule. With several athletic seasons requiring the same facilities, adding another program would be difficult if not for the compact nature of esports.
“Each video game is its own sport which will allow every program to grow at its own rate as well,” said North. “In our athletics department, our constraint is our practice facilities, our gym and weight room have student-athletes getting better all day long and our gym gets bogged down. esports allows us to grow our department in an area that does not additionally overload our current constraint.”
North believes the program could open up doors for recruitment opportunities to SWCC. Currently, SWCC is accepting applications for the coach position and is looking for support from alumni and community members to start the program and possibly establishing scholarships for esport athletes.
“The program direction will include a lot of local student-athletes, but you can recruit world-wide as well which is a big factor,” said North. “Allowing students from all over the world to experience Southwest Iowa and introducing Southwest Iowa to so many different cultures is beneficial for all of us.”
With the nature of esports being less physical than most sports, a common debate is whether or not the activity should be considered an athletic event. North believes there is more than expected in common between the two, both within the event and behind the scenes.
“Esports and traditional sports, on the surface, seem like opposite ends of the spectrum,” said North. “However, they are a lot more similar than you would think. There is a lot of time spent scouting opponents, watching film, and practicing.”
North said esports are closer to athletics than they would be recreational gaming due to the competitive nature and strategy required of competitors.
“You have to be mentally sharp and ready,” said North. “It is far from the mindless ‘stare at a screen’ that comes to the front of thoughts when initially discussing this avenue. Much like a traditional sport, the mindset is ‘how can I tweak my strategy to take advantage of the tendencies of my opponent?’ Esports will match our other programs in bringing a togetherness across campus. The student-athletes will be excited for big upsets, they will be rooting for their team, and they will maintain a team atmosphere that we value on campus.”
SWCC began reviewing applications for coach yesterday and will continue the reviewing process until the position is filled. More information will be provided as the program is established, with a projected inaugural season in the fall. Any students interested in competing or community members wanting to support can contact Doug North at firstname.lastname@example.org.