Opportunities in Collegiate Esports

The following is a transcript of a live event that took place on NASEF's Facebook page with our friends at NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

Learn more about collegiate esports and its opportunities with our guests:

Michael Brooks from NACEsports
Dr. Chris "Doc" Haskell from Boise State Esports
Danielle Sirekis from Ltu Esports
Adam Antor from Florida Southern College
Hosted by Claire LaBeaux from NASEF


Claire LaBeaux: Hey everyone, this is Claire LaBeaux from NASEF, The North America Scholastic Esports Federation. Super excited at the lineup that we have here today. Because if you are thinking of Collegiate Esports, this is your group right here. So, I'm just going to go ahead and let each person introduce yourselves. Let's go ahead and start with Michael. Just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Michael Brooks: Sure. So, yeah, I'm the executive director for the National Association of Collegiate Esports. For short, just call it NACE. That's what everyone else does. I've got a number of responsibilities but for the most part, we want to see collegiate esports formalized. We want to see opportunities at the collegiate level across both the United States and Canada. And we put in a ton of effort, with our member institutions, to create those opportunities and I'm ecstatic to be here. Some of the best and brightest in our association are here to share about themselves.

Claire: Awesome. So, you said, you want to see it formalized. Let's just clarify, because boy, you have a lot of members. So we know it's formalized in law schools. How many schools are in NACE right now?

Michael: So, right now, in terms of full NACE members, we're at what, two hundred twelve, I think, as of yesterday. So, I actually saw one coming today. So, that must be these two hundred thirteen, which is fantastic, right?

Claire: Awesome.

Adam Antor: To put it in perspective, in 2016, July of 2016, there were only 6 colleges and universities in the United States that had varsity level esports programs. So, that's absolutely outstanding growth. You know, the running joke is the speed of higher education, which is, say it, it doesn't move very fast. Esports is, at this point, the exception. It's moving incredibly quickly. The schools are adopting esports programs left and right. Even better than that, the esports programs that we've seen that schools typically start or have started in the past are growing, or much much larger, right? It's not just like here's a team. It's now, here's an entire program that focuses around not just competition anymore. It's still a core area, of course, but now looking at academic pursuits, looking at community engagement, fundraising, right? Everything that we see athletics today, and more. We're seeing schools experiment with it when it comes to their esports programs.

Claire: Right, that's awesome. So, speaking of thriving esports programs, we have 3 leaders of just fantastic programs. So, great to have you all. Let's see, Adam, why don't you introduce yourself and a little bit about your school and your program?

Adam: Yeah. My name is Adam Antor, and I am the director of Esports at Florida, Southern College. Prior to being at Florida Southern, I started about a month ago, I was at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I was the head Esports coach. And what's interesting to note about our program here at Florida Southern is, I actually report to 2 different people on campus. I report directly to the athletic director from a competition standpoint. But I also report to the dean of students when it comes to student engagement on campus, and both are very pivotal parts of my role here at Florida Southern.

Claire: That's awesome. That's an interesting and really smart split. It sounds like, to me, we have a lot of that going on in NASEF at the high school level to you. You may be part of athletics, but definitely part of the instruction, the curriculum, super important, Danielle, how about you?

Danielle Sirekis: All right. I'm Danielle Sirekis. I am the head coach of Esports at Lawrence Tech. We have a brand new program. I'm also, like Adam, where I report to student affairs and athletics, so I'm kind of in more of a sweet spot as well. I think I pivot more on the student affairs side, but we definitely are part of it and we grew from zero to forty-one currently, as I roster. And I am competing in about 8 titles, which, you know, I wish, yeah, Doc, I'm a little bit crazy, but I like to be an overachiever and hit a home run when I go.

Claire: That's awesome. Adam, how many titles do you guys compete in?

Adam: We compete on a varsity level in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League, so only 3 but we also support some club-level competition for Hearthstone and CSGO and that's more student-driven.

Claire: Cool. All right. Doc, take it away.

Doc: Excellent. Like my colleagues, we support a bunch of students. We've got 5 varsity games, what Adam said, plus Madden and Valorant. And then, about two hundred students on the club side. We support another handful of games. Some of them are the same. Some of them are different from R6 and Call of Duty and some of the other ones that the students want to play. We'll support them as well, but we have about thirty varsity student-athletes who are both players and we have them on the production side. I mean, I'm sitting in front of our production desk right here.

Claire: If we're just showing off now, I'm pretty sure [inaudible].

Adam: [inaudible] Doc's special right there.

[inaudible crosstalk]

Michael: [inaudible] my home office right now. [all laugh]

Claire: I'm right there with you, Michael. [laughs] Oh, that's awesome. So, describe a little bit about what the students are doing. You showed us that awesome facility. Like describe what production is.

Doc: Wow. So we produce about forty hours of live Esports content a week. We have a team of about fifteen production and on-camera talent. We produce all of our own things. We volunteer and produce high school events, and we also do some paid production. So, it really is a working television studio with an Esports team on the side. Essentially, it's the way that it works.

Claire: That's awesome. So, If I'm a parent and my kid is totally into Esports, just something that, at NASEF, we look at a lot is parents are going like, "I don't know." Like, "I get that you love this, but is there a future? Can you really go to school?" You know, "What are you going to do after you graduate?", "How are you going to make money here?", "How are you going to take care of me in my old age?" You know, all those questions. So, what do you think is the path for kids, if they're in high school right now, and they're thinking about Esports in college? What's the path for them? Let's see. Danielle, I'll start with you. Put you on the spot.

Danielle: Yeah, so it's actually kind of funny because I'm pretty new to the environment. I say new but I've almost been here just about a year, and for us, I think on this call, except Adam- Adam, that way, I would presume that most of our like degrees in college education didn't really pertain to Esports. And I know you didn't go to college for that Adam. I'm saying experience-wise, so I think gone are the days that that's going to be a thing and you're going to have more people looking for students who have volunteered with programs like Doc or Adams, and I'm striving to get to Doc's level. I think we all are, even the chat.

Claire: Yeah.

Danielle: So, education-wise, I think just, we need a lot of graphic design people. We just partnered an LTU with production college, Specs Howard. And I had been speaking to them about that and starting to pull in people for shoutcasting. And obviously, I had to say, "Oh, it's just like broadcasting." They just call it a fancy name. So, hopefully, things like that, production schools will start, you know, funneling into Esports and that will be a good fit too.

Claire: So, we at NASEF, we talk a lot about what we describe as the Esports ecosystem, which is all the jobs around the player. So, for us, we see Esports as a fantastic magnet to get kids involved and really caring about something at school. Like how great is it to be able to be learning around something that you are super passionate about, right? And there are tons of job opportunities in Esports that may or may not include you being a professional gamer. So, Doc just mentioned broadcast. Danielle, you just mentioned graphic design. Whatever kind of opportunities do you see long-term for kids, in or connected to the Esports world? How about Adam?

Adam: Whatever you can imagine is kind of the short answer. I've had students with a variety of different skills and passions find a way into the space. We have a student who's going to start writing our weekly recaps. I don't know if he's super interested in sports writing or writing in general, but writing about Esports has been something he's going to be doing for us. We have students who are in leadership positions as captains. We have students who are running broadcasts like Doc has. We have students who are doing broad play-by-play like Doc has mentioned. We have students who come in and take photos for our program. And these are all a variety of skills that prior to 2 years ago, you would have classified them as job opportunities whereas Esports wasn't and now we're all this kind of realizing that there is actually a lot more crossover and potential than we all originally thought. I did not think I was going into Esports. I was a marketing director at a high school 4 years ago, saw a kid wearing an Esports Jersey and wanted to start a club and we did. And now I'm working full time as an Esports coach, and a couple of those high school students are now getting scholarships to go to college to play Esports. So, how the world has changed, and I think most of us have seen that graphic with all the things. If you've got a passion and Esports is also a passion of yours, there's probably an opportunity in the space for you.

Claire: Right, yeah. Well, I mean, look at this group right here, right? All coaches, but none of us is- I don't know, is anyone on this call playing for a living?

Doc: Oh, I'm playing for a living.

Claire: Is that how you're supporting [inaudible], Doc?

Doc: You know this well because we've known each other for a bit, but this is the greatest scam I've ever perpetrated. I'm a head coach of video games. And they believe, they buy it. In fairness, to our colleagues, this is the hardest work I think each of us have ever done. It's the most dedicated as it's the most time we've ever put in. But there are very few moments where it feels like real work. It is an opportunity to be with students and watch them discover and become, you know, it really is like watching, you know, a garden grow rapidly right in front of you. You're amazed and delighted, and it's one of the few things, professionally, that allows you to feel real joy, and we all have happiness and success, but joy is like a selfless expression. And we get that in this space, and we get to discover it all the time. It's not that it's not hard. It's very hard. But it is a beautiful space and we're seeing students become the next version of themselves because they get opportunities to have what we describe as consequential participation. The thing that they are doing is not an assignment that fits in a grade book. It is something that matters to them and to their community, and they have an opportunity to serve others through preparing for a competition, for picking their, you know, their teammates up after a bad loss, feeling proud of their association with their universities and their schools. It really is a special opportunity to plug these communities in where there really hasn't been that depth of community before.

Claire: Right, yeah. We see kids all the time who come to a NASEF club and they're like, "I found my people. I have been looking for this. I found my people on my campus," which they may have connected with their people before online. But to find your people on your campus and then be able to do things that you care about, and learn, and at the same time, we all know as adults that camaraderie and the collaboration that they learn and all of those things like it's so important for kids to be able to find that in high school and then to continue developing that through college is awesome. I heard the magic word "scholarships" earlier and I think that is something that, you know, as a parent with a college student, I can tell you my ears perk up when I hear the word "scholarship". So, tell us a little bit about what's available out there. Michael, how about if you tackle that one? What do you see available through NACE along the lines of scholarships?

Michael: Well, yeah, absolutely. By the way, I would still like to find your people. Absolutely, I'm waiting for them to let me in. [laughs] So, I just want to point that out. Some of us, I know where they are. [inaudible] But yes, scholarships, I mean, the largest pool, let's be very frank here, the largest pool of scholarships, it's institutional scholarships, right? So, I know there's this big, I would say, to a point, it's a misconception that, you know, the Esports video games, you can go and win a lot of money and sometimes that's in the form of scholarship holes. Yes, that does exist, but let's talk about scale, right? The combined total of prize winnings in terms of scholarship prize pools, it's less than a million a year, maybe, right, here in the United States? But if we look at the aggregate pool of scholarships of tuition support that institutions who are fueling esports programs have, we're talking tens of millions at this point. I mean, it's dramatically different. So, when we talk about Esports and scholarships, I always point out that the best and greatest support you're going to get is from the institutions. So, what's your academic strength? What majors are you interested in? Matching that up with your player skill to institutions who are interested in students like you, that is the best utilization of your time that I can think of, if I was a parent or student, right? Obviously, the parents are supporting the student trying to point them in the right direction.

Because we talked about earlier, I didn't mention, I didn't want to interrupt, these people are credibly smart. And I want to hear what they have to say. But you know, we talk about career opportunities and Esports all that. But remember, you can go after any major and still be, you know, a student with any Esports program. Just like any other sport, right? Very few people go, "Hey, you play basketball. So, what are you going to do as a job with basketball?" You know, most student-athletes would go, "No, I'm in Computer Sciences", "I'm in accounting", "I'm in journalism", "I just also happen to play Intercollegiate." You know, insert activity Esports is no different. There are tons of job opportunities being created by Esports but don't want to go under, you know, to miss that people are complex. They're allowed to have many interests and pursue many interests. Your academic and your competitive interests don't have to overlap. That's perfectly fine, you know? Be successful in both. Dedicate yourself to your fullest potential in any pursuit you do. Esports is just a vehicle that can help you get there and help give you other great skill sets that make you a great leader in your community, a great employee in the future, right? There are many companies who specifically target and want to hire as their employees former student-athletes, and that's not because of the academic things they learn within sports. It's because of the skill sets, the character building that comes with, on top of the academic tool belt they come with having graduated with a full degree.

Claire: Right. That's absolutely true. And I know, at NASEF we have partnered with University of California, Irvine, for a lot of research into, you know, how are kids learning when they're in these NASEF programs? And a lot of what they're learning is the stem skills, that soft skills of communication and collaboration and understanding, you know, how to identify a problem and solve it, and that kind of thing. And that's super important. And that's not something that you take a class for, right? Just like you said, you may not major in Esports. You may end up working in the industry. You may just love it and end up doing something tangentially related. It's all good. What we're looking for is a place where a student can be themselves and do what they love and learn a ton and have a job they love at the end of all of it, you know? I mean, the last thing you want, we all love our jobs, right? The last thing you want is somebody who gets up in the morning like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go to work today." So, if we can help kids develop the skills and work in something that they're passionate about, that's awesome. So, speaking of skills, what kind of skills are you all looking for when you're bringing someone on to one of your competitive teams? Danielle, what did you say, you have eleven? You're crazy.

Danielle: Not that many. Don't give me that many, 8.

Claire: 8, okay.

Danielle: So, I have Madden. Madden is kind of self-sufficient. I don't want to say it that way, but that is kind of an afterthought. So, yeah.

Claire: Alright.

Michael: That's even worse Danielle said it that way. [laughs]

Danielle: No. I don't mean it that way.

Michael: It's a smaller team, right? They're more able to self-organize.

Danielle: So, like 2 Madden players. One was going to play League and he actually is a multi-sport athlete. So, he's on the lacrosse team and Madden was easier to balance for him than League was going to be. And then, the other player is also on the hockey team, which is also easier for him to balance. So, it wasn't that it was an afterthought in that I wasn't. It's just they were really excited and interested in competing and I wasn't, I didn't really want to turn a student away. I mean, I didn't get this opportunity. So, I want to, my demise and give everybody the opportunity to participate.

Claire: That's awesome. I'm going to point out 2 things that you just said that I think debunk a lot of myths that parents have about Esports because you said these kids are also playing sports, right? Lacrosse and hockey. And that they're learning balance. And I think one of the myths that we hear all the time is about, "Oh, my kid is always playing games and these kids are always in the basement," right? "They're always in a basement somewhere playing games." That is not true. And you can be a multi-sport athlete. And one of them includes video games and still doing physical activity and still balancing your life and being, you know, doing well academically, that's all super important. And I'm glad you mentioned that because a lot of it, you know, a lot of times parents kind of go, "Oh, I'm not sure if I want him in there because I'm afraid my kids are going to be addicted to gaming." That is the furthest thing, trust me, from any of our minds if your kids get involved in Esports. We want them to be well-balanced. Okay, rant over. So, what kind of skills are you looking for in kids?

Danielle: I’ll go,  I mean, I'm obviously looking for somebody who can balance life and it's going to take it seriously. I think, like you said, a common misconception is that they're just playing video games in their parents' basement. And I really want somebody to represent, you know, Esports and lift it up and be a voice. It's really important to have really good academics. I mean, most of us, higher education, you need to be here for that reason. So, to be driven and that's really important.

Claire: Awesome. Adam, how about you? What are you looking for?

Adam: I think the balance of things' great. Academics is definitely an important piece of it. For me, one of the most important things I look for early on in the recruitment process is attitude and how they uphold themselves in difficult situations. So, usually when I first start talking to recruit, one of my first steps is to get them playing with some of our players and just run some games, talk about the school, get to know each other a little bit, and I go back to my players and ask them, "Hey, what was it like playing with this person? What happens when you guys lose?" What was their reaction? Because the worst thing that I could do to our program, and what I'm trying to build is bringing somebody who gets down on their teammates or really struggles with losing doesn't know how to do that.

So, those are some of the early things I'm looking for. I also, I'm not very hands-on with my recruiting. I know there's a lot of recruits out there or coaches who will constantly hit up their recruits and say, "Hey, have you applied this week? Have you applied this week?" And I'm constantly doing that. And I purposefully don't because I want players who are self-driven and who are responsible enough to go through that process without me constantly begging them because if I beg them now to apply, I'll beg them next year to do their homework or go study. So, those are kind of the small things and the balance is so important. Nick's right behind me. He walked on this year to Esports and the cross-country team. He's a freshman and he's working, right? He's doing homework right now. So, balance is a very important part of Collegiate Athletics, in general, being able to balance it. So, those are kind of the things I look for. Most of mine are soft skills because I've learned over the years of coaching, both at the high school and college level, I can teach a lot of the hard skills when it comes to most of these games at least to a semi-competitive level. But the soft skills take years to develop. So, that's more what I focus on.

Claire: Gotcha! Yeah. Doc, how about you? Anything specific that you're looking for in recruits coming to your program?

Doc: Grades, truly. I mean, one of the things that really can help us understand the level of success that they can have in the college scene is even if there was a blip where things didn't go great, can you buckle down and can you make the academic part work? That is a critical skill that you have to master, and when things get hard, which they always do in college, you get sick. You have roommate issues. You overscheduled. You oversleep. All of those things. Can you reset and get restarted? And grades tell us a lot. A lot of, you know, recruits ask, "What can I do to be ready to play in college?" And it really is. Well, if you've got a B average now, see if you can make it a B plus average, right? See what you can do differently in that realm because we can offer them so much more in scholarship. If their grades are a little bit higher, then it's a better indicator of how they're going to balance, as my colleagues talked about, what's going on in the difficult, you know, competitive space, traveling back and forth, trying to make it all work if they've got that experience. So, grades are really important to us.

Claire: Awesome. So, you just mentioned, one thing kids ask for advice and say, "What do I do?" And you said, "If you have a B, strive to get a B plus." What else? NASEF has a ton of high school students that are going to watch this. I'm just realizing it's noon on the west coast. So, hopefully, they're all in class right now. But of course, this will be available on Facebook later. And we'll make sure that a lot of students see this. So, students who want to go to one of the colleges where you all are coaching, in addition to grades, what else do you recommend they do while they're in high school to increase their odds of playing for a program at one of your schools?

Doc: Play with teams. Get yourself on a team, whether it's like, you know, an Esports Tower or one of these developmental organizations that, you know, behaves like the AAU in basketball or anyone of baseball. I mean, any kind of ladder for competitive experience, have that experience. We don't want great solo Q players. We want great teammates and that's a big step because those games are kind of different. The collegiate meta and game is very different from the competitive Q meta where you can manipulate it in some ways. Good teams are good teams because they're good teams, not because they're a collection of individually talented players, and we see it all the time where good teams beat more talented players. And so, get on a team, get the right team, and learn to lift where you stand.

Claire: Exactly. And I see our founder, Gerald Solomon, commenting there, "What Doc means to say is join NASEF," which is 100% true. Through NASEF, we have a ton of opportunities for students.

Doc: Gerald, you read my mind. As usual, you read my mind.

Claire: Awesome, yeah, Danielle, how about you? What advice do you have for high schoolers who want to play at your school?

Danielle: I mean, everything that Doc said and also persistence. I mean, sometimes I get super busy and if you have great grades and experience and just continue to kind of like reach out or try to bring something to my attention, that's a big thing. I also think extracurriculars outside of just Esports are something too and not just like our club, but just what you do for your community and things to improve at as a person, it just kind of shows what kind of character you have. I know that's a lot to ask of a high school student, but, you know, it matters.

Claire: Right. Well, you know what? In high school, you're preparing for college, you're preparing for life, right? So, I think I agree. It's a great time to start those habits of making a difference in your community and, you know, being part of a team that's making a difference and not just thinking only about myself and how do I, what do I need? How am I going to get better for my own future? But, how am I going to help my community too? Adam, anything to add to this? What kind of things should kids be doing while they're in high school?

Adam: I'm not going to add anything but a word of caution I think to a lot of high schoolers as they're going through the process of high school is to watch your digital imprint and your brand on social media. I mean, you can burn bridges before they're even built with what you've put out on social media. I was just talking to another coach, a colleague of mine at another school, who said he's leaving to go to another school, but he is working through the process of doing the interviews of the school he's leaving. And he saw somebody who had applied and all he knew about that one person was a bad negative tweet they put out a couple of months ago and because of that, they're not going to get an interview. So even, and it's probably even more important when we're looking at high schoolers and looking at college opportunities. So, clean up that social media and keep it clean. It's just not worth it. And that's coming from me who is pretty spicy on social media sometimes. So, yeah.

Michael: I'd love to add to that Adam because you're absolutely right. How you've communicated yourself in the past, how you communicate today, those are all incredibly important. Adam, you're specifically calling on Twitter, but it's any social media platform that like anyone has visibility, everything you put out there, if it's Twitter, let's be honest, 99% percent of the time, somebody used it against you. Sometimes in the future somehow, it'll be twisted in whatever way whether you meant to or not. So, be very careful there, but I do also want to point out that some developers, some publishers, are looking much more closely at in-game chat, and I think that might be surprising to some people. I'll give you an example. League of Legends, Riot runs collegiate League of Legends. We also at NACE run a League of Legends competition.

But it's typically collegiate League of Legends. They actually do look at the player chat history of the students competing. To my knowledge, they're the only publisher that does that to the collegiate level. I know, though, because we work with many publishers, that is actually being looked at much more closely for the future. So, be careful. I mean, we're not just wanting, and it's not just us publishers as well. We're not just trying to see how you handle yourself in public. You're also being evaluated by how you handle yourself when you feel like you're in a safe spot, safe place.

Adam: That's true. I mean, our team at Aquinas had a student who was deemed ineligible for collegiate League of Legends last year and it was because of something he said 6 months before he even came to Aquinas in a game. So, that's really important to know and also twitch streams, you never know who's watching because I know Doc has mentioned it to me before, but I'll even do it with recruits. If I find a recruit streaming, I'll pop in and listen and see how they conduct themselves. And if they're doing things that I wouldn't approve of, I just immediately leave and they get nixed off my recruiting list because I just don't want to have that in my program, frankly.

Michael: Yeah, so.

Claire: All right, absolutely. At NASEF  we have a code of conduct and that is super important to us. And I know one of the things that we're thinking is we know there's a lot of toxicity out there in Esports, right? But we're imagining this change happening right now from the ground up from the younger kids coming in, and the change that they're going to make as they're in high school, and they're in these programs that are demonstrating them. How do you be uplifting? How do you be a good role model? How do you learn how to handle tilt? I mentioned the UCI research earlier. And one of the big studies they did is how our kids learn to manage their tilt in-game and it's very different when they're in a guided situation like NASEF, or they have a coach, and they have a general manager who is helping them go, "Okay. You did just completely blow it. You're right." Now, how do you handle that? How do you respond with your teammates and build those skills in high school and then in your case and college? And that makes for better citizens, we talked about this just a few minutes ago. Better citizens in the world overall, right? Not just for your gaming, but overall. So, yeah, I'm really happy to have you guys bring that up and it wasn't something I expected to cover. So, I'm glad that we dove into it, it's really important. Okay, we have just about every time we talk to somebody who loves Esports and they hear about NASEF and they hear about, "Oh, you guys have these clubs in high school. These teams in high school. I wish I had that opportunity." So I'm just going to ask each of you. Finish this sentence. If I had something like NASEF when I was in high school, Michael, what would have been different for you?

Michael: Maybe I would have been invited to the cool table. I'm not too sure. My knee would not be clicking at this point in time. I mean, I played football for the most part, all the way, you know, middle school to high school. I loved it, and still do love football. But let me tell you, at a certain point, people got a lot bigger than me overnight. They didn't tell me. I didn't know I was supposed to get bigger too. But yeah, my knee would be a little bit better at this point in time. I feel like, look, we all had this, right? Danielle spoke about this earlier. None of us had the opportunity to do this in college. I think all of us love games, but probably unless you are a very close friend, you would never know this about us, right? It's not something you would talk about. It's not like, why would you? It never comes up in conversation and your community felt very small because of that. It just kind of is what it is. I find it wonderful. It's a breath of fresh air and a sign I think of a good person that they recognize when they don't get an opportunity. Instead of complaining about it, they do exactly what Danielle, many others have done. They create those opportunities for other people because they see value in it. And that's exactly what I think we're seeing for the good folks who are at NASEF. That's exactly what we see within NACE. But yeah, I mean, I wonder about all the people I probably had a lot in common with that I never had a connection with because we never knew about each other. We never knew what the other was passionate about. This was no opportunity to connect. Absolutely, those connections exist today.

Claire: Yeah, yeah. Adam, how about you? If you had something like NASEF when you were in high school, what would have been different for you?

Adam: My parents probably would have supported my passions more and taken them seriously. I was always a gamer. I still game with my high school buddies today. And that's the reason why I started the club at the high school 4, 5 years ago was to create those same opportunities for students. And I think that would be the most important piece taking it away. If I was afforded that opportunity, my parents would be more bought in, and they're still not bought in, but we're getting there.

Claire: We're working on it.

Adam: Yeah, yeah, and then, the other piece was, I think I would have taken my passions more seriously as a student. I always thought, I never thought gaming would give me a career. I never thought gaming would be anything past what I did when I got home from school. But now, obviously, I've realized that, and now I get to share that knowledge with students today. And that brings me joy because up until now I've had students, I know one student at Aquinas that I constantly talk about. His name's Powder. He's a Rocket League Caster there. He tried out for the Rogue Team and was not good enough to play and I was like, "Yeah, I don't have a spot for you, but I'd love to have you cast," and he did. And now he's casting on College Carballs Twitch, getting in front of thirty thousand people at a given time. And this is a student that his first 2 years at Aquinas had switched majors twice, didn't know what he wanted to do. And now, he has found that calling in that passion and it's because we offered Esports at Aquinas that that student and numerous others have come to that realization. And I would have hopefully had that same opportunity if we had something like NASEF back in my day, but we didn't. So, all we could do is try to provide that for students now.

Claire: Right. And that's really the heart of this question, right? It isn't about to end. It's about taking advantage right now, like looking at these leaders in front of you. I mean, what high school student wouldn't love to play for any one of you, right? And so, here is what they're saying about the value of NASEF and taking advantage of it. Danielle, how about you, if you had NASEF when you were in high school?

Danielle: Yeah, literally guidance and community. I mean everything that they said, I was kind of being a female, I kind of really left games under wraps because people were like, "You play games?" So, I was going about my life. I was a patient advocate in an emergency room. And there were people who didn't even know that I played games religiously because I worked at night. So, just literally having people like me around and I, you know, I get along with tons of people. But there are plenty of people who don't have that community. But this is one of those first times that I really feel accepted through and through for everything that I do. And that's the cool part. So, definitely having a community around me to support, and I would have saved a lot of money and time.

Claire: All right. Well, that's important. How about you, Doc?

Doc: Well, if NASEF had been around when I was in high school, we probably wouldn't have had to fight the confederacy for the future of our Union.

Michael: We would have been able to play the game.

Claire: Leave it to that. Leave it to that. Well, you know what? I'm hearing what all of you are saying and it reminds me of a student who told us what it's like when their school announcements announced that the Esports team had a championship match that day. Like he just, you know, like, "That's me. I can't believe they're talking about me on the Esports team." It just makes such a difference to high schoolers. And so, it's really cool. I just love the opportunity to be working in this and to be helping students see their vision, how they can connect their passion with where they're going to go to school, what they're going to study, what they're going to play, you know, their free time, whether you're going to play on a varsity team or in a club you all mentioned, having great club. So, you know, there are tons of opportunities for kids. And that's what we want to reinforce is that through NASEF and through, you know, NACE, you can see what your opportunities are in the collegiate space and that's what we're here for, is to open those out to students and hopefully give them a path to do something that they really love.

So, I cannot thank you guys enough, all 4 of you. This was so much fun, as I knew it would be from, it was on the panel, and we're for sure going to make use of this. As I said, when school is out and make sure that the students get to see this, too. So, thank you all so much for your time.

Danielle: Thank you.

Adam: Thank you.

Danielle: Bye, guys. Thanks for tuning in. And I had some supporters.

Claire: We did have some supporters. I noticed that.

Danielle: She's one of my team captains. So, I probably have a couple of others in there secretly. They made a joke out there because they called me, I got called by the manager on stream. So, now they just have it and let it die.

Michael: Either way, you're the boss.

Claire: That's right. All right. Thanks, everyone.

[END]

Interested in more conversations about collegiate esports? Check out our YouTube playlist with several NASEF livestreams with collegiate program directors and coaches.