How are Collegiate Esports Changing?

Three collegiate esports program directors spent time with NASEF Communications Director Claire LaBeaux to discuss the college esports world.

[00:00:21.820] - Claire LaBeaux

Welcome, everyone. So great to be here again with a panel of allegiance esports experts who are members of NACE. We are here to talk about collegiate esports. What does the scene look like right now? How are things potentially changing? I'm Claire LaBeaux, and I'm the communications director at NASEF, the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, and just excited again to get a chance to talk a little bit more about the collegiate scene and help our students understand where they may be going or what things they might want to think about depending on how close they are to high school graduation. So let's go ahead and just take a minute, introduce ourselves. Tyler, let's go ahead and start with you.

[00:01:06.150] - Tyler Levesque

Hey, everyone. My name is Tyler Levesque. I am currently the assistant director of club sports and esports at Northeastern University. I've been in this position for about two years now, started at the beginning of 2020. And currently I oversee the varsity sports program and the club esports program, along with about 64 other club sports that we manage on a day to day basis. A little bit of my history from my esports experience. I started as a graduate teaching assistant in the sport management program at Wichita State University, and at the time, I had the opportunity to work with some great leadership there to develop an introductory course in esports, which I still teach today as an adjunct instructor for the Department. And we started the sports program in 2018, and I assumed the role is full time coordinator in 2019. And I was the Wichita State coordinator of esports for a year. And we did great things with that program. We built it up. And since I left, I know they've got some great leadership there as well, but I've got about three to four years now of experience, direct experience in collegiate esports. And yeah, I'm excited to talk about the growth in the evolution that I've seen just in the three to four years that I've been a part of.

[00:02:28.050] - Claire LaBeaux

That's awesome. That's a lot of clubs that you're overseeing and a lot of activities on campus.

[00:02:34.380] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah, a lot of clubs, a lot of students. But we do it because we love it, right?

[00:02:38.180] - Claire LaBeaux

Exactly. That's really cool. Terry, how about you tell us about yourself? Hi.

[00:02:43.220] - Terry Gustafson

Yes, I am Terry Gustafson. I am the director of educational technology and esports at Northwestern Michigan College. We are in Traverse City, Michigan. So we are in northwest Lower Michigan. So by that, I mean we are in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula. So if you're familiar with that.

[00:03:01.430] - Claire LaBeaux

I'm waiting for your Michigan hand thing.

[00:03:05.370] - Terry Gustafson

So up here.

[00:03:06.590] - Claire LaBeaux

There we go.

[00:03:07.640] - Terry Gustafson

Lake Michigan, the Bay. Lake Michigan is two minutes from my house, so there's an advantage to living north. So our program is actually a first year program. We're in our second semester of competition. We currently have rocket League and Overwatch. So we start small and then we're building from here on up. My background, primarily starting years ago, is broadcasting. So let's bring some of that knowledge to the casting side of it, work my way through to more of an educational role. But as far as esports and that I used to do a lot of gaming when I was a lot younger, and I had a little bit of that still left over. So when it came time to look into starting a program, my VP tapped me to lead the project. We're really excited that we're growing fast. We had a tournament Tuesday night for Halo and probably had 9,10 students showed up, which for community College is pretty good, and all of them are high level players already that we're hoping to have a team there. And we already got two more titles that we're going to add next fall, so we're excited to keep it growing.

[00:04:21.810] - Claire LaBeaux

That's awesome. Interesting. You have such different backgrounds or roles within your school right now, clubs and then educational technology, and that's sort of the thing with esports everywhere, as they're trying to figure out where exactly do we put this? Jarod, how about you?

[00:04:38.900] - Jarod Ericksen

Sure.

[00:04:39.400] - Jarod Ericksen

Hi, everybody. My name's Jarod Erickson. I'm the head coach of esports at Cleary University in Howell, Michigan. Wouldn't be surprised if not many of you know where that is, but we're about 30 minutes north of Ann Arbor, which is where the University of Michigan is, which is always a big selling point when I'm talking to recruits. So my job at the University sees me overseeing all the day to day activities of esports, whether that be our practices, administrative work, coaching, broadcasting, recruitment, all of that. So kind of like Tyler and Terry here, come from a background of esports, previously worked at a junior College level esports program, started that back in 2020, worked with a community College called Waubonsee, which is over in Illinois, and then moved up here to Cleary to help start their esports program back just about a year ago. Now last year in February. So definitely excited to be a part of the panel a little bit more on my background with esports. Prior to that junior College, I had helped start a company called N One Esports, which was unfortunately claimed due to COVID in March of 20. So worked for about a year creating a company that essentially works very closely in line with what NASEF wants to do and bringing not so much the educational side of things to esports, but we brought the more athletic side of it.

[00:05:56.360] - Jarod Ericksen

So we had a physical space in downtown Chicago where we envisioned having kids come in and participate in weekly practices with coaches that I was personally in charge of training, and then I was in charge of developing the League of Legends curriculum as well for that company. So, yeah, a lot of really diverse backgrounds here and excited to be in this group.

[00:06:15.460] - Claire LaBeaux

That's awesome. So, I don't think we talked about the titles that you all play and whether you offer scholarship, so it was mentioned a bit, but maybe we should do another quick round Robin and add that in there.

[00:06:36.850] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah, for sure. I can start. So our varsity program that we supported, Northeastern. We currently sponsor the titles for Overwatch, Rocket League, League of Legends, and Hearthstone. Those have been the four titles we've sponsored the past two years. Now for us, we don't have a full ride scholarship or anything like that. We have a small allocation for the students as a scholarship, but there are a lot of factors that go into that. Northeastern is an extremely rigorous school, for sure. It's a tough school to get into for us as a varsity program. Obviously, we do focus on recruiting, but we also focus a lot on what we have on campus. So we have such a large pool of students that we can choose from because I think Northeastern's undergraduate population, we get close to 12,000, 13,000 students total in the Boston campus as well. So, we're never short when it comes to interested students, but obviously we do our best to get the word out there about our program, but we currently don't offer full rides or anything like that. But that's obviously the eventual goal, and that's where we want to be, and that's where we believe we need to be in order to be one of the best esports programs not only on the East Coast, but kind of in the nation.

[00:07:57.160] - Tyler Levesque

I believe we can get there, and I'm sure we'll talk about this later in the conversation, but every school is different. Every school has different timelines. Every school has different ways to get these things accomplished, but it just kind of depends on the school and their timeline. So that's currently what we offer and where we're at.

[00:08:15.500] - Claire LaBeaux

That makes sense. We did a College fair in conjunction with NACE a couple of weeks ago and actually had thousands of connections. I was really excited for the kids 14,000 connections, roughly between students and colleges. And it was interesting because it was a mix of esports scholarships that were being offered for players, but then also for things like journalism or graphic design or marketing. And we're trying to encourage our students don't just think that you can get a scholarship for your esports gameplay, but also look at the major that you're in and see what you can pursue along those lines, too, because there's no harm in double dipping, if any of that's available, right, for sure.

[00:08:59.390] - Tyler Levesque

And I've encouraged students kind of at this point, knowing where we're at as a program, it's more along the lines of, obviously, get my information, contact me, reach out to me, reach out to our coaches, and well and see what's possible. And a lot of the times right now, students are kind of we're still at a point where we're lucky enough to have students kind of reach out and say, hey, look, I'm talented and at this game, this is my SR. This is who I am. I'm just interested in going to Northeastern and obviously just the application process and how difficult it is to get into Northeastern. That's also a huge kind of piece of leverage that you can use as well to get into the school and also come play for the varsity team. So it just kind of depends on how students choose to come at it, and it just depends on what schools they're looking at. I always be as transparent as possible with the students, and I tell the coaches to do the same, especially if some of these students are some of the highest ranking players in their specific title. And we encourage them to look at all options because there might be a student that wants to stay close to home and be close to Boston or the East Coast.

[00:10:00.110] - Tyler Levesque

And Northeastern is the school that they want to go to. And we are so excited to offer any sports program that we feel is one of the best, and we're continuing to get better. But that does offer that option with kind of the understanding that we're working towards more scholarship dollars, we're working towards more resources and all those things every single year.

[00:10:20.170] - Claire LaBeaux

Yeah, that makes sense. Jared, do you offer scholarships and then also what titles do you play?

[00:10:26.660] - Jarod Ericksen

Sure. Yeah. Cleary is a little different than Northeastern in respect that we are a very small school, about two to 300 population on campus. We're a private business University, so it limits us in our offerings. So I have to approach recruitment a little bit different because most Esports players, at least statistic wise, about 40% of them, for me, are going to be lost to people who are interested in majors that aren't business or just aren't opening to studying it. But as far as the titles we offer, we have kind of a laundry list. We kind of try to hit on anything. I have multiple athletes that play multiple games. So we have Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Rainbow Six, Siege, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Rocket League, Call of Duty, Vanguard, Overwatch, Halo Infinite, Valorant. So kind of touch on a lot of them. And a lot of those games have parallels where the skill sets translate to one another. So a lot of stuff that we touch, but that's just because we like to cast a broad net. And our scholarships range anywhere from $2,000 for a year all the way up to some have been written for twelve or $13,000 for a year.

[00:11:31.410] - Jarod Ericksen

Again, no full rides, but we try to give as much assistance as we can, and we're freed up there again, being a private, nonprofit University. So it's going to be a little different restrictions than junior colleges or public universities.

[00:11:46.450] - Claire LaBeaux

That's great. And Terry, how about you?

[00:11:49.930] - Terry Gustafson

Yeah, we currently just have Rocket League and Overwatch because we started small this year, getting off the bat. We have two Rocket League teams and then the one Overwatch. We do have scholarships. Being a small two year school, we do offer $1,000 a year for our students towards tuition and fees, looking to grow that, working with our foundation, having specific scholarships as we move forward and as we grow the program with the idea that now that I'm recruiting outside our regional area and starting to recruit other parts of the state and even out of state a little bit, we're a little unique too in that there isn't a big high school presence in Northern Michigan right now with programs. It can count as many as we have in our recruiting area on one hand, and most of those are new this year. So all of my student athletes I have right now were students who are already at the school. So I started with tryouts last fall and August, and we had just barely over enough students really to make the teams. And then we had trials again for spring, and we had an overwhelming response, and we're getting a little more traction in that to grow the program, which we're hoping to keep going and go beyond that.

[00:13:18.100] - Terry Gustafson

But my hope is to expand to four or five titles by next fall. Some of that will depend on recruiting, though, working with the local high schools now that they've got their programs going, really, I'm hoping that will be our feeder where we get the most of the students from. And like Tyler said, I'm really looking to recruit not just for Esports, but I'm trying to sell some of our higher profile programs. Right. People think of a two year school. They think of, well, I'm just going to get my Gen eds and transfer or whatever. But we have some really unique programs, part of it because they've always been there, but also because of our location and where we are on Lake Michigan. So I really start to talk about some of our unique programs, like our marine technology program, where they can get a two or four year degree to do marine technology, where they learn how to do surveying underwater. So you think about unmanned underwater robots that you see on the specials and that we have a program where that's what they learn how to do. We have aviation, we have culinary we have lots of unique programs that I try to sell the students on to say come for the program and have Esports be a compliment to it, right?

[00:14:33.270] - Claire LaBeaux

Yeah, that's great. And that aligns really well with a lot of what we encourage students to do in NASEF. And that is we get that you love Esports and we absolutely want you to play and enjoy that, but also think long term at the same time, what is your career trajectory and make sure that you're preparing for that and not just focused on the gaming right now because at some point you're going to age out, most likely being a competitive player. And so you want to be making sure that you're setting down your pathway well. So if you had a Crystal ball and you could predict where were we going to go in the next few years as far as titles that schools are competing and what kinds of things you'd be offering, what do you see as the future in collegiate esports?

[00:15:25.150] - Terry Gustafson

Let's see.

[00:15:25.680] - Claire LaBeaux

Jared, I'll go with you first.

[00:15:27.560] - Jarod Ericksen

Sure. I'll take this one. I think the future is only going to see more growth as programs grow in size. You'll see more kids that are drawn to it. And ultimately our growth isn't going to happen without the growth at the high school level. So the work that you guys are doing with Nasef is really helping us have pipelines created where a lot of kids don't know what esports is. Part of my job as a coach is recruiting, and I can show you my list of hundreds of high schools that I've called and the general reception of the front Derek, is what is esports? I said, don't send me to the athletic director. They're not really going to know anything about this.

[00:16:04.490] - Claire LaBeaux

Right.

[00:16:05.080] - Jarod Ericksen

I usually end up going through counselors that deal directly with scholarships that are put in front of the kids or they actually have a club. And then I hopefully get in contact with that coach who's usually more than excited to be able to talk to a collegiate coach that's interested in their school because our interest in high school programs really helps validate it to their superintendents or principals. Like, hey, this is a real thing colleges are looking at. We need to help support it. And high school is really in my experience, not a lot of them have the privilege of having access to money to really create those programs on campus and buy a bunch of really nice PCs. They have to work with old labs and stuff. So as it grows at that level, we'll see more growth at our level.

[00:16:48.480] - Claire LaBeaux

Right. We were just at a conference, TCEA in Texas, and it was awesome. The local high school from Richardson brought their esports club, which has several competing teams. And so here we are in the middle of this educators conference, and we had esports tournaments going on and everyone walking by was just like, what is this? And it's so cool to see them. But it was interesting as we talked to the students and they introduced themselves, how many of them were freshmen? And so seeing those freshmen come into the program and be excited. And for me too, it was really interesting that when we looked at the seniors, it was mostly boys. When we looked at the freshmen, it was almost an even split, 50 50 of girls and boys. So just really excited to see that growth. And Texas representative, I think of what we're seeing all across the country, for sure.

[00:17:45.280] - Jarod Ericksen

Yeah. From what I've seen at high schools, the ones that have programs that are started, there's usually a story about a senior who just wanted to start a team there and find someone to talk to. And there was an administrator who was open to being the admin of the club. So it's the students that are being Proactive in helping Esports grow. So I try to do my job and help it grow, too, especially when I talk to a recruit that doesn't have a program at their high school.

[00:18:09.600] - Claire LaBeaux

Right. Yeah. The teacher of this program that I mentioned said when he did the first meeting for interest on campus, he said so many kids came and looked around. He was like, oh, we are totally over fire code in this room right now. And it's cool. The kids are all about it. So it's going to be fun to watch it grow the next few years. Terry Tyler, how about you? Any thoughts on the next few years of collegiate Esports, what you think is going to happen there? Yeah.

[00:18:37.710] - Terry Gustafson

I really think to Jared's point that it's going to depend on the high schools and having that feeder pulled as the high schools grow and developing those relationships with the high schools and not just recruiting far away, but for me, it's building the relationships with the programs at the high schools that they're building them. Right. So sponsoring things like we're going to do Rocket League tournament with two or three of the new the high schools who have new programs in the area in March. Right. So they can see what it's like to compete against my College players and what potentially it could be and what that feels like. So building those relationships, I think, will help not only the high school programs grow because, like in Traverse City, where I am Traversing Central High School has a new program for traversity west. The other high school doesn't. But now they're starting west. It's like, oh, well, Central has a program, so now they're going to start building one. And as more schools learn about it, I think then that'll really help build up the high school level, which then some of us in Michigan, there's a lot of colleges and universities in Michigan that have started Esports.

[00:19:50.140] - Terry Gustafson

We have a pretty good presence. Jared nodded his head. We joke like we're all fighting to recruit the same 20 students right now. So we kind of need it to grow at the high school level so that we can stop fighting each other and beat each other away from the same students.

[00:20:07.990] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah. And obviously when I hear this question, it takes my mind in a lot of different directions. High school is one. I think community engagement is key. We focused on that a lot, especially when I was at Wichita State. We ran an event, partnered with the YMCA. We had over 2000 students come out to that event. It was a live event that interacted with our actual team at the time. So students got to come up on stage and play against or with our varsity team at the time, which was super cool. And I definitely think that is a huge piece of it. But for me, when it comes specifically to the collegiate space in general, my mind also kind of goes to the publishers and they're just kind of relationship with or whoever they choose to form a relationship with. And obviously there is a very large topic that's going on right now or conversation with a specific game in that relationship within the high school space. And we know that that's brought on some interesting conversations online and the freedom to play that game and how to support that game. And I think you're seeing it at the high school level.

[00:21:12.720] - Tyler Levesque

And I also believe that you're going to see that for sure at the collegiate level as well because we belong to an athletic conference and every single year we reassess the titles that we're supporting and that we play for these programs. And so for us, it's almost kind of sometimes it can be difficult because we're trying to predict in a way what we believe is going to either be most supportive, most accessible ways that we can best structure ourselves around these titles. But obviously there are so many moving parts. You have everybody knows Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard and what does that mean for those gaming titles? And there's the relationship with League of Legends and the RSA and what that's going to look like and how that's going to continue to evolve. And every single game has so many different tournament providers and opportunities. But I feel like in the next because when I first started at Wichita State in 2018, it's vastly different compared to what we're seeing now just in two to three years, just in the way ways that games are being offered, ways that we can access these games, what tournaments Derek playing in NACE was just NACE, it was just Star League.

[00:22:23.110] - Tyler Levesque

Now it's NACE Star League. There are so many moving parts. So the only thing that I firmly can say that I know that will continue to happen is I firmly believe that collegiate esports programs will continue to develop in whatever capacity. I believe that I've always said that esports exist. My job exists because it's a response to student interest. I've said that since day one, since I started my job at Wichita State because that's what Terry Hall said. He was the director of student affairs. She said, Tyler, this is where the students are at. Can you help us? Can you help us and do some research for us? I firmly believe that will be there. I just don't know where it's going to be in the next two to three years. I know we'll be here. I know we'll be here supporting our programs are going to be here, and we're going to continue to develop those programs, offer those scholarship opportunities. It just may be for different games two years from now, maybe for just different opportunities there. So I would also tell the students to kind of keep your head on a swivel a little bit.

[00:23:19.310] - Tyler Levesque

Obviously, Valorant just came out. That's a big game the students are picking up and playing. So I think Riot announced a new game not too long ago that could be an Esport, but it's more along the lines of just it's going to evolve and it's going to evolve quickly, and it already has, right?

[00:23:34.730] - Claire LaBeaux

Yeah. I mean, in the last couple of years, there's been so much change and growth. And I know we're seeing that in the high school space, for sure. And I know, as you all have said, that is coming to you in College very quickly. Another thing that you pointed out that is different about Esports is just those publishers and the relationships they have with the teams. And if it's football, it's not controlled by Spalding or Wilson.

[00:24:05.260] - Claire LaBeaux

Right.

[00:24:05.510] - Claire LaBeaux

Like it's football. So it's very different in Esports, and I think that will evolve and hopefully in a positive way that's the best for the students involved. Right. As time goes on. So we'll see how that grows and changes when you talk about recruiting and students that you're bringing into your schools. And this is something someone asked in the chat and always our students are interested to know, what are you looking for in a student who's going to come play on one of your teams? Terry, you want to start first on this one?

[00:24:39.010] - Terry Gustafson

Sure. I'm looking for when I start talking to students, I'm looking for student athletes because that's what I'm calling them, is the one that's got as much dedication and shows that they're responsible and they're good students as much as their ranking and everything else that goes along with it. The students that we have on our teams, we have a pretty good mix as far as ranking. I don't want all supersonic Legends on my record League team because then they're Galel fighting for who's going to do what, which is nice, right. But I'm looking at their personalities and how they fit together. So when we had our tryouts, we were looking at their communication, who's communicating with, how they are communicating with each other, how their game play is and their different skill levels. But I also want to see that they got good chemistry. Right. But in particular, individual students, as much as important to me to look at students that are willing to learn, willing to take on different responsibilities and see how they've done that throughout their high school time. And I want to bring them on board if they seem like they're a good fit for the institution.

[00:26:03.570] - Claire LaBeaux

Jared, what are you looking for in students for your program.

[00:26:08.730] - Jarod Ericksen

Being a newer program, we're looking for good students, both gaming personal lives. We're looking for them. And one of the biggest problems I run into is finding them with high schools, not having a lot of access or great contact points to be able to speak with students directly or get materials in front of them. It's really hard to find them. So, of course, on almost a daily basis, I'm scouring traditional platforms like Be Recruited, NCSA, Seek Team, Discord channels, things like that. So I'm posting messages and reaching out to students on a daily basis. But one of the things I look for when I'm scrolling through a website like Be Recruited, which is one of the I believe it's a paid service, or maybe NCSA that's paid, but I'm looking for students that actually have complete profiles. If they just put their name in, there a contact point and their rank. Am I going to reach out to them? Probably, but it might not catch my interest. So students that actually put effort into those profiles, and they may need help because chances are they don't have a counselor or a coach at their school that's going to know how to help them build an Esports profile.

[00:27:18.590] - Jarod Ericksen

So reaching out to those different organizations that can assist them or even as their parents to sit down and help them, encourage them to write out a little paragraph just about them and their general interests. Because I'm not looking for somebody who's just a gamer. If you're interested in Esports, I know you're a gamer, but I want to know a little bit more about you. Have you done traditional sports? Do you have experience being on a team? Do you have interest in broadcasting or journalism or anything like that? Because we have scholarships available for those two. We're not just looking for players when it comes to recruiting. We're just looking for people that are willing to be on a team and want to actively engage in Esports.

[00:27:57.870] - Claire LaBeaux

Sounds like we need to do another College fair soon.

[00:28:01.110] - Jarod Ericksen

Absolutely. Those are great.

[00:28:03.770] - Claire LaBeaux

I'll put it on my to do list.

[00:28:06.630] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah. I would say for us in Northeastern, at least in my experience coming from W shoot here, which is, I would say have a plan of attack, for sure. So have a resume ready, and you can have two separate resumes that I'd love for you to send me, even if you've not worked directly through our coaches, if you found my contact information and are talking to me directly, is have a traditional resume ready to go with your academic and school experience, and then maybe even have an Esports resume if that's something that you're willing to put together as well. Just because I know that sometimes we like to separate the two, but I like to get a full picture for sure. Just because I know for us at Northeastern, normally we kind of have to take the approach right now, currently in our program, kind of more of just if we have students reach out to us, we have to really assess the full academic profile just because once again, the academic standards at Northeastern are so high. So, basically, which you can do a quick Google it's just like if you submit a test score for Northeastern, it's 1500 on your ACT or 1500 on your SAT and a 35 on your ACT, and then you have to have a 4.04 GPA or higher.

[00:29:14.690] - Tyler Levesque

So it's one of those things that obviously, if you're recruit that we're really looking at for Northeastern and you're telling us you really want to go to Northeastern and this is the school that you've grown up near in the Northeast, and you really want to come here. And then I'm saying, all right, send me that full academic resume for sure. And then obviously, if you're contacting us for the varsity program, you're going to have a well rounded Esports background in terms of it could be as simple as your SR, and then it could be more of your playing experience as well. But for us, we have to really take into consideration that academic profile as well, just because of the standards that we have in Northeastern. So I know, though, that it's obviously vastly different at every school. So I would say if you are an individual, wherever you're from the United States, just do your due diligence when it comes to research as well, the way that we recruited at Wichita State is vastly different in the way that we have to approach recruiting at Northeastern. Both programs are incredible. I can tell you that from first hand experience, it's more along the lines of just kind of identify what academically makes sense for you, but also obviously pulling that research that you do for the Esports part of it as well.

[00:30:22.180] - Tyler Levesque

But there is that big piece. We have a lot of students that do reach out where you can reach out to me, and it's like I'm a 4.4 player for tank for Overwatch. And I'm just kind of like, okay, well, what's your GPA? What's your high school GPA? I'm happy that you're great at the game, but I just have to know your full profile. So make sure if you reach out to those people at those universities, be ready to go with that information, because that also shows kind of a level of preparedness that a lot of students don't normally have. And then the other things that Terry and Jarod touched on, which are the intangibles that if we get to the point where we are really recruiting you hard, we want to know what kind of person you are as well. So, our coaches. I can't tell you how many times we have a coach for every single varsity title that we have. All four coaches have expressed that, obviously talent, and we want you to be super skilled at the game. But, man, you got to be a good teammate. You've got to be a good communicator.

[00:31:20.990] - Tyler Levesque

You got to be willing to deal and work through difficult issues. If something happens on the map that you're not happy about, you got to be willing to work through that after the match or maybe take some time and work through with your teammate a day later, whatever it may be at this point in time, we would even be willing to say, okay, you're slightly less skilled than this other player. But man, the way you communicate, the way that you talk to other people, the way that you treat our coaches, the way that you treat our staff, the way that you treat the facility, anything, just that full scope matters so much to the coaches and the other people involved. So, I really want students to take that into consideration as well.

[00:31:57.850] - Claire LaBeaux

Yeah, I think that's really good advice. And you're looking at the whole person. Right. You're not just looking at the game skills, but you're looking at what they're like as an individual. And one of the things that we found in NASEF, we've done research into the impacts of our programs. And if the kids are in our clubs, what's happening? Are they developing more interest in Stem careers? Are they happier to be in school? Are they more connected to their school? The answer to those is all yes. The other thing that is really coming about as being part of our programs is kids learn how to manage tilt better, and they learn how to be a better team player. And I think essentially it's because we're starting the process earlier than you are. Right. So if someone's on a team and they get a coach for the first time learning how to play a game with others, that's different than if you just are always hanging out with your buddies and doing it. So if you have the opportunity to participate in programs that have that coaching and that kind of thing, I think it's really valuable.

[00:32:57.910] - Claire LaBeaux

We do at NASEF, we run free coaching clinics. We partner with Cloud Nine Training Grounds, which is a phenomenal organization, and they have their highly ranked players come and we do it in our discord channel, and kids can participate and they learn a combo of game skills. And then also here's how to be that team player. That's so important. So for any students. It's free. So come and join us and develop the skills that these recruiters are looking for. Jared, we were talking a little bit before we started about kind of the dual sport athletes, because I know being well rounded, you've all said, is an important thing. So what does that look like for a student who's in more than one sport?

[00:33:42.910] - Jarod Ericksen

Sure. Well, just real quick to hit on the Cloud Nine Training Grounds that you were talking about. And it's definitely a phenomenal program. But if you have a kid who participates in that. That's something that they should definitely put on their gaming resume like Tyler was talking about. That's going to show me as a coach that you've done some kind of team environment and you've worked with coaches before. So that makes you more appealing to us because we have that opportunity to see that. But that aside, speaking to the dual athlete part, so the way we approach it Cleary is we have about 80% to 90% of our student body participating in some kind of athletic, which means they most likely have a athletic scholarship. So if I have a dual sport athlete that's receiving a scholarship for basketball and they want to participate in esports as well, they can play games with me, they can attend my practices. But the sport that they're here in scholarship for is their primary focus. And ahead of all of that comes academics. So if they start struggling academically and I'm their second sport, that's what they're cutting out.

[00:34:46.550] - Jarod Ericksen

So we're really looking there. We don't give scholarships for multiple different esports, but if they want to participate in our club, they're able to. So it kind of comes in order of academics, scholarship sport, and then that other extracurricular that you want to participate in, you're more than welcome to.

[00:35:04.030] - Claire LaBeaux

And you just mentioned they're welcome to participate in your club. So of the three of you, how many of you have clubs in addition to your competitive program? Go ahead, Terry.

[00:35:18.430] - Terry Gustafson

Tyler, you have lots of clubs.

[00:35:22.330] - Claire LaBeaux

I'm an esports club.

[00:35:24.270] - Terry Gustafson

Yeah, we have a club. It's a small number of students, to be honest with you, being that we're a two year school, mostly commuter, it's been a little bit harder to get going. That's actually the first thing that got going last year. Well, most of us were working and learning off campus. It was one of the only things that happened. So that was really cool because none of the other student organizations were doing anything. And we managed to have two or three tournaments, and then a lot of the players from that kind of made the leap to the varsity.

[00:35:57.890] - Terry Gustafson

Right.

[00:35:58.430] - Terry Gustafson

So this year I've been building back the club a little bit, but it's starting to take off again. I'll be honest with you, help. Our esports lab arena is in the basement of a new building and was still not a lot of people on campus. Things are starting to filter back in, but they just put in a pool table and a foosball table right outside the lab. And our use in our club participation based on people coming down using the pool table has jumped explanation because they're like, oh, we have this here. What is this about? And so now we've had a bunch of students join the club even in just the past three weeks.

[00:36:39.920] - Claire LaBeaux

That's cool.

[00:36:41.240] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah. We have obviously a lot of club esports at Northeastern as well. I think we have eleven or twelve at this point. It's just started FIFA and Call of Duty this past semester. And then we also have Rainbow Six, League of Legends Overwatch Valorant every game that you can think of. And so normally within those Esports, normally we have three to four teams, a lot of them. For Rainbow Six, we may have one to two. It just depends on the title and when kind of how much their interest there is. It depends on the semester as well. But yeah, I also firmly believe that the presence that you have on campus is massive, too, especially for some of the schools that are a little bit bigger, like ours, where the Northeastern varsity program truthfully may not even really exist without the investment that the students made initially before I was even there, so, it started as a student interest group. You had a lot of just great. And this is typically the story everywhere. There are a lot of schools, which is you have the students that are the drivers, and they have some sort of access point that they identify, that they identify with some sort of administration, if that's either through campus recreation, traditional varsity athletics, through it could be its student affairs, whatever, and they find that point of contact, and then they help them elevate the program.

[00:38:06.220] - Tyler Levesque

And so for Northeastern, it started student interest, moved into club, then it moved up to varsity. And it's got that point now where we have so many students on campus that are so interested. So we just do our best to serve kind of every level of interest that we can. I know on social media all the time. I always see just kind of the conversations about clubs and varsity and student interest and all those things. And sometimes it is kind of like, why can't we live in harmony here, everybody? Because obviously they're all very important and they provide value at every different kind of level. We have a lot of clubs, and I do believe clubs are. And student interest is pivotal to the success of the varsity programs. To be honest.

[00:38:48.190] - Claire LaBeaux

That's awesome. Well, let me throw one last question at all three of you, and that is just a piece of advice. If you have some advice for I would say either NASEF's high school students or potentially other people who are watching this because they're interested in these colleges. So maybe at a school now and looking to make a move to a school that offers Esports, what's your advice regarding? I guess not just Esports, but life in general. Right. What should you do if you want to pursue Esports in your lifetime as a big question for you?

[00:39:25.970] - Tyler Levesque

Yeah, go ahead.

[00:39:26.530] - Terry Gustafson

Go ahead, Tyler. No, go ahead, Tyler.

[00:39:28.370] - Tyler Levesque

Okay. That's obviously a large question I know for me, and I can build up my own life experience here. I went to the University of Texas down in Austin, graduated from there, didn't have really necessarily an agenda to be in Esports in any sort of capacity. I had the opportunity to go to a great graduate program, the sport management program at Wichita State. And from there, I just took advantage of the opportunities that were in front of me. And so I started out taking $7 an hour, $8 job working for the support management office just as an access point, just to say, hey, these are the people that are going to provide information possible for me. So if I'm looking for an opportunity in traditional Esports, awesome. And then it turned out to be in Esports because I was in the right place at the right time and I made the right connection. So if you're a student looking to be involved in Esports in whatever capacity, work extremely hard. No one's just going to give you that. No one's just going to hand you the dream job or the dream opportunity. Unfortunately not how the world works.

[00:40:36.260] - Tyler Levesque

I would say do your research, especially also when it comes to collegiate sports programs as well. If you're a senior in high school right now, do your due diligence understand where that program is at, who's directing those programs, what scholarship opportunity is available, and kind of just try and identify the best school for you because you may identify a school that has the best academic program. Maybe they're not the most far along in the Esports program that you would like to see. And it may even be somewhat of a calculated risk that you take to say, hey, look, I'm going to go to insert school here because I love the academic program and I've talked to so and so, and we're going to work on the Esports program. If Esports is all you're interested in, that's where you're going and you're going full on 100% in Esports, and that's everything to you. Then identify those just top notch varsity Esports programs that offer those full rides that you really want and go after it, but go after it respectfully, have everything prepared that you need to speak to those coordinators as respectfully as possible and present yourself just the best way you can.

[00:41:35.130] - Tyler Levesque

Because I can promise you you're not the only person reaching out to those coordinators or directors as well, because we're at a point now I have a fun little anecdote. When I was at Wichita State, I just started a parent walked in and they gave me their students highlight tape on a thumb drive. And I was just like, what? These were Overwatch highlights. And I was like, what are we at my head? I was like, Esports has arrived. Like, we are here. Highlight tapes, just like a Huddle football film highlight tape. So we're here. So we're getting to the point now where there are a lot of students that want to be recruited. So how do you stand out? What separates you from the rest? So try and figure that out and just come prepared.

[00:42:17.650] - Claire LaBeaux

Right. That's great advice. And I would say don't be afraid to dig around to try to find the programs, because there was a comment in chat about I wish that there were more College opportunities in Texas. And I can say I know from conversations we've been having that there are programs developing at big schools there from big to small, which is interesting. The three of you represent that. Right. From a small school to a pretty good sized school. And so if there's somewhere you're interested in.

[00:42:45.600] - Jarod Ericksen

Go look hard, because I bet you'll find take that College name, put esports after a Google and hit Enter. And if there's a program there, it'll populate in that first four or five for sure.

[00:42:56.810] - Claire LaBeaux

Exactly. Terry, what advice do you have?

[00:43:01.970] - Terry Gustafson

I think for the high school students, one of the advice I would give is keep your academics first and then love the esports. Still part of it. You're gaming because I know for me, looking for the academics, even we're open access to your school. Right. But I want to look at the academics. But also if your high school does not have an esports club or something, find the teacher that will help you get one going. You'd be surprised if you find that advocate. They'll maybe be able to get you access to a lab or get you access to partnering with another school. But that's how the programs started here at the high school. Students who were dual enrolled with our College, they saw an email about it and they went out to a teacher and they found somebody to get it going and research like esports and the College you're looking for, but also want to reemphasize find your path academically with the colleges and then find a College that has esports to fit because it's the same advice that we would give to when I was more involved with travel, hockey and players who are looking to play and everything.

[00:44:20.100] - Terry Gustafson

There Derek, a lot of players that went and took the first scholarship that came their way and they hated where they're at the school, even though they were playing College hockey. Find what you want to do and the place you want to love and find those places and grab onto the esports at those places so that you have the academic fit and the program fit at the same time.

[00:44:41.470] - Claire LaBeaux

Yeah, that's great advice. I dropped a link in the chat because, Terry, you gave us the perfect plug for starting a club at your high school. NASEF is a nonprofit and everything that we offer as far as clubs and framework and advice to getting one going, that's all offered free. And so if you go to our website, there's a bright blue button at the top that says sign up. And it's really easy to do. We offer two tournaments every season for free. And then, like I said, we have all kinds of resources. And we do things like those Cloud Nine training grounds, and we run what we call beyond the game challenges, where kids get an opportunity to compete in areas like Shoutcasting or creating logos or the different aspects of esports that we've talked about a little bit here. So, we have lots and lots of clubs where the GM of the club on campus is not a big esports person, but it is the teacher that every kid on campus loves and wants to hang out with. And those are generally the ones that say, if you know the gaming, then I will help you get this started.

[00:45:43.450] - Claire LaBeaux

And trust me, the kids know the gaming. That's the easy part. It's just getting somebody on campus who's going to advocate for it a little bit. And Jared, how about you.

[00:45:53.700] - Jarod Ericksen

What advice do you have kind of right in line with what Tyler and Terry said? I'm at a private business University, so the only thing we have our business related courses, and that's something I tell any kid I talk to straight up. Some of them reach out to me, and some of them after that first sentence, they say, oh, I want to go into computer science. And if their response is that I always tell them, do not compromise your future career so that you can play esports. At my school, I would love to have you here with us. I'm sure you're very good at your game, but don't give up on your future for four years of gaming because you're not going to be happy afterwards. Now, if they are interested in esports and they want to get into some kind of role, especially at the collegiate level, we have a wonderful sports management program. It could be a great route into it. I know more and more colleges around the country are offering esports specific curriculum. I know clearly plans on implementing that over the next two or three years, but finding teachers for it can be kind of difficult, especially because it's such a new topic.

[00:46:53.460] - Jarod Ericksen

But yeah, my advice is find the school that works for you fits you academically first, and then as long as you're doing all that research that Tyler had mentioned and you're looking into the esports program and who is leading it, if you don't talk to the coach for the team, if you're talking to somebody that's just like a captain, make sure you talk to the coach, too, because you have to like the guy that's going to be overseeing the program. Because if you go in there and it's not what you expected and you haven't seen their space and it's just five computers in a room and they call it an esports arena, chances are you might not be getting what you were really buying into. And colleges with esports not offering many full ride scholarships. Nowadays, it is an investment. It's an investment of your time. And make sure you end up where you want to be and where you see yourself for whether it's two years at a junior College or four years at a University, do the research and then and only then make your commitment. But don't be afraid to talk to all kinds of different ones.

[00:47:49.540] - Jarod Ericksen

Don't find what you think is the perfect school and just fixate on that one choice. Look at multiple schools, find what works for you and you'll find a place in Esports because it really is everywhere in College, right?

[00:48:02.720] - Claire LaBeaux

It is for sure. And I just dropped one more link in the chat and that is to the Nace page and if you go there, there is a school directory so you can take a look at that and that will help you find these three individuals as well as many others that are in Nace that are running these new and upcoming Esports programs, which is so exciting. So thank you all for being here today and for sharing this information and for people who are watching live or who are checking out the video later, this is something that we do once a month where NASEF and NACE get together and we host live streams where we're talking with collegiate program directors and it's just a great way to get an insight into what are they looking for and how can you pursue your future careers and goals through College program. So make sure you're following us on Facebook and NACE and then you'll get the schedule as far as the next live that is coming up as well as the guests. So thank you again and good luck. Have fun.

[00:49:05.930] - Jarod Ericksen

Have a good night, everybody. Thanks.

[00:49:07.450] - Terry Gustafson

Have a good night. Thank you.