BANNER ELK, N.C. - If you walk through the Chaffee Administrative Building this fall, you might not realize that a sports team is practicing, competing, and training nearby. You won’t hear the dribbling of basketballs, the dinging of tennis rackets, or the whirring of bike wheels, because Chaffee is the new home of the Lees-McRae Esports team.
“We're a club sport level team, and we compete in Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros, Fortnite—basically any game that has a team-based competition out there, there's students on campus that want to play these games,” Director of Esports and Gaming, and Coordinator of Club Sport Recruitment Casey Courtney said. “We compete against other colleges, just like a traditional sport, in each of the different games.”
The Lees-McRae Esports team competes primarily through the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC), a national conference of approximately 150 collegiate Esports teams across the country. Through NECC the teams compete in skill-matched tournaments in League of Legends, Overwatch, Rainbow Six: Siege, Rocket League, and Valorant. Other games, like Call of Duty, have individual leagues for high-level players promoted by their own gaming company.
“For Call of Duty and for Rocket League I've recruited some really high-level players that are coming in, so we're going to be competing in those leagues rather than NECC, but NECC is a great opportunity for current students who maybe don't have competitive experience, but they want to play on a team and are passionate about the game,” Courtney said.
Courtney has been the director of the team for almost two years and has big plans for how the group can grow. Now, with a big move to Chaffee that will double their space and equipment, Courtney’s visions for the future of the team are beginning to come true.
With 10 incoming freshmen joining this year and 10 last year, there are now a total of 30 students on the team, causing them to quickly outgrow the five computers and small room that made up their previous facility in Bowman Science Building.
“There was not enough space to grow, so this move is to set us up for the future. Ultimately, there'll need to be even more space than what we have now, but it's a step in the right direction,” Courtney said. “We now have 10 computers total. We just bought five new computers, 10 new desks, 10 new chairs, and peripheral equipment for all the computers. It's all brand-new stuff. Now we can bring in other schools if we want to bring in a local high school team, because there's high schools in the area that compete too.”
Courtney wants to see the program continue to grow and develop and having a larger facility can be a great recruitment tool and a great way to get high school students interested in this level of collegiate playing. As the Coordinator of Club Sport Recruitment, scouting new talented players for the Esports team is a priority for Courtney, and a primary way for the program to continue to grow. Courtney said much of that recruitment is made possible by scholarships.
“It's all on a one-on-one basis as to what I'm offering a student because it's all based on their skill level, competitive experience, how much they want to be involved, and if they want to be involved in social media, coaching, and management,” Courtney said. “In terms of the amount we offer, in general, it ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 per year, but it can be much more if they are a highly touted recruit.”
While being part of the Esports team may seem like all fun and games, Courtney said it operates like any other sports team, requiring teamwork, communication, dedication, and training from its athletes. Like any other sports team there are also many other benefits to being a player than just practicing your gaming skills.
“On campus it provides an activity for students that a lot of times don't have a community. A lot of gamers try to isolate, and they just want to play games by themselves, so this is a way to give them a structured team,” Courtney said. “Just like in traditional athletics, you're part of the team, so you're working together on strategies and things. The games require just as much strategic thinking, planning, forethought, and communicating with the other teams and with each other.”
Courtney will be hosting an interest meeting for the Esports team on Monday, August 22 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held in the new Esports lab in Chaffee room 127. All students interested in participating in this year’s team are encouraged to attend. Those who do not have ID access should meet at the outdoor entrance to the lab across from Shelton Learning Commons.
“If you're interested in pursuing your passions of participating in and competing in these games that you love, this is an opportunity to do so and get to come to a great school, get your education, and receive scholarships,” Courtney said.
For more information or to discuss other opportunities within the NECC, please contact Jacob VanRyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT NECC ESPORTS
The NECC began sponsoring esports in the fall of 2020. The NECC is currently sponsoring both regular season competition and championships across a wide variety of titles. The conference aims to serve the gaming community with respect and is a safe and inclusive environment. With more than 200 colleges and universities throughout North America currently competing in the conference, the NECC is proud to be a positive home for the collegiate gaming community.