Esports continues growth in competition

Since its addition to the Athletics program, the Esports team has continued to grow through the years and is becoming increasingly popular amongst incoming college students.

This trend is seen nationally, not just at VWU. According to The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), there are currently 170 member schools that consist of over 5,000 athletes participating in esports. These numbers are projected to rise within the next few years.

The process of playing esports in college is just like every other sport, in which students can get recruited to most schools and receive scholarships. 

There is a lot of money to be made from esports, as $15,000,000 is offered to the esports elite per year from colleges, according to WIRED.

Head Esports Coach Glenn Johnson discussed what the process is like and how he recruits.

“We find out the interest of students when they apply and make contact with them throughout their onboarding on campus,” Johnson said.

For students who are interested in trying out for the Esports team, it is not too late.

“We advertise to the student body for open try-outs that occur at the beginning of each fall,” Johnson said.

The esports season is long, and preparing for each match is not a walk in the park. It involves extensive practice and research into other teams.

“Sometimes we look to see if they have gameplay streams or content that we can review to understand their gameplay. Other times we focus on our own practice and come up with an array of strategies based on what we know,” Johnson said.

Johnson stressed the fact that preparation for each match is similar to other sports.

Senior Kira Blagg (left) and Sophomore Kevin McSwain (right) pose in front of VWU Esports sign at tournament Feb. 23. 

Photo: Laila Jones| Marlin Chronicle

“We focus on getting players to remove as much pressure as we can. Our prep is very similar to most traditional sports in those ways,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes the program continues to grow and become more successful and that the campus community will give support when the team hosts events.

Throughout the season, the team competes in brackets leading to playoffs. The games include individual matches as well as tournaments.

Senior Stephon Babb is a part of the Rocket League, League of Legends and Fortnite teams. He described what the playoffs are like.

“It is a point-based system and each win is two points. So, the more points you have, the higher you get placed in a bracket that is similar to playoffs in other sports,” Babb said.

Babb has been a part of the Esports team since his sophomore year.

“I did not know we had a team. One of my friends told me about it, and they offered many of the games I played, so I decided to join,” Babb said.

The benefits that come with joining the team have created an excellent experience for Babb.

“The computers are nice, but we also get to travel more now that we are becoming a bigger program,” Babb said.

He is very thankful to have met this group of people through the team.

“If you are really into gaming, this is a different community that you would not meet just walking around campus,” Babb said.

Babb is making the most of his final season at Virginia Wesleyan and hopes to bring a trophy back by the end of the season, but the hope for a trophy requires more than just his own hard work. Leadership plays a pivotal role in how far the teams go in the playoffs as well. 

Senior and captain Paul Nelson, who plays on the Overwatch team, described what being a captain was like.

Nelson said that his responsibilities involve “working on running team practices and making sure the team was in the best position possible for each upcoming week, which includes starting lineup changes and other adjustments.”

Being a captain also goes well beyond working with one’s own school.

“We play in two different leagues, so I had to work with other schools to coordinate our matches and when we play,” Nelson said.

Along with Babb, Nelson has met some of his best friends since joining the program during his first year.

Senior Kira Blagg, described the nerves throughout the process of joining the Esports team this year.

“I was unsure about joining the team at first, but I went to one of the practices and enjoyed it so I have been there ever since,” Blagg said.

Being a part of the team can be a lot when balancing the two to sometimes three-hour practices along with film sessions, but Blagg has made many friends since joining.

To watch the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins Esports team in action, fans can visit their Twitch channel:

By: Coy Camiscioli