Wilson College and the Phoenix enters the wildly popular eSports arena this year with the appointment of two co-head coaches. Josh Bound and Mike Pittenger will train the new Phoenix eSports teams.
The coaches are recruiting players from current and prospective students with the goal of teams competing in fall 2021. The Phoenix eSports program will initially enter teams in “Overwatch” and “League of Legends” tournaments. They will eventually enter “Rocket League” competitions.
“We are thrilled to announce this new sports program for returning and incoming students,” said Wilson Dean Mary Beth Williams. “Competitive video gaming is what students want, and we are excited to provide them this opportunity.”
Bound believes eSports teams offer incredible opportunities to players to practice communication and collaboration while instilling a sense of team based camaraderie.
“Competitive esports requires the same levels of stamina and focus as many of our traditional sports” he said. “Managing stress and working through team based problems are common factors players need to deal with while competing. People that compete in esports are just as serious when it comes to winning and losing.”
eSports to be part of varsity athletics
The teams are being considered on the level of Varsity Athletics and will compete regionally and nationally. Players will be recruited in the same manner an NCAA or Junior College would recruit for track.
The college is building an eSports “arena” for the new teams. The arena consists of a dedicated room fitted out with computers, gaming chairs and access to high-speed internet. When complete, it will provide teams with a place to train and compete.
Esports — competitive video gaming — is a global phenomenon that has almost 500 million viewers, generating over $1 billion in annual revenue. In 2020, more people viewed the League of Legends World Championship finals than watched the Super Bowl.
Asian countries still dominate eSports, China and South Korea in particular. But the rest of the world is catching up quickly. Currently, the top-earning professional eSports player is Denmark’s Johan Sundstein. The US government now recognizes professional eSports players as professional athletes.
‘A good fit’ for Wilson
“I’m excited to build the eSports program from the ground up at Wilson,” co-head coach Mike Pittenger said. “I will be coaching ‘League of Legends,’ a team-based game that requires strategy and critical thinking just as much as quick reflexes and precise control.”
He calls it “a good fit” for Wilson since students will learn and develop teamwork, communication, and leadership skills in a competitive scenario.
Pittenger says the program will “foster an inclusive but competitive environment that will see Wilson recognized in the eSports community nationally and beyond as well as provide the students another avenue to represent and support their school.”
“As the coach of the ‘Overwatch’ team, I look forward to establishing the Phoenix eSports program and being a mentor to our competitors,” co-head coach Josh Bound said. “Esports are team sports and, as with any sport, establishing camaraderie among the players and building team chemistry is fundamental to what we do.”
The college is exploring conference affiliations and should make those decisions by the time the teams are ready for competition.