Champlain College’s new varsity sports team doesn’t have a court, field, or track — but it does have an arena, PC computers, and trackpads.
Champlain Esports launched this past spring as Champlain’s premiere electronic sports team. Like other sports teams, they have practices, scrimmages, and matches against varsity teams across the country. Unlike other sports teams, they compete in video games.
“We are Champlain’s new athletic department,” said the team’s director Christian Konczal.
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Games played by students range from the first-person shooter Valorant, to the strategic battle game League of Legends, to the futuristic soccer game Rocket League. The team meets at their recently-debuted arena on Champlain’s Lakeside campus, which boasts 24 open PC stations, a competitive training room, and livestreaming studio.
“Everything that you would expect from a college football game, for instance, is happening with our students at the helm,” Konczal said.
Students run the day-to-day operations of the team, including live video broadcasting, community building, social media management, and more — all as paid work study positions.
“I think the big thing that Esports here has done for me is given me a lot of good opportunities to do leadership positions that are just actually interesting to me,” said student Ivy Koczalka, a senior from Nashua, New Hampshire, who works as the team’s community manager.
The team originated in 2012 as a student initiative, which became known as Champlain Club Esports — the largest student-run organization at the college today. The old club and new varsity team merged into one arena to create an esports hub on campus.
Now, Champlain Esports is a varsity team that competes against teams from universities across the country, including Texas A&M University, University of Massachusetts Boston, and Missouri University of Science and Technology.
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Not just playing videogames all day
Nationally, 175 colleges and universities offer varsity esports, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports. The association hosts a biannual championship tournament with teams across the country, called the National Esports Collegiate Conference. This past spring, Champlain’s club team won a division of the championship, and the varsity team got to the finals, Konczal said.
“It’s not just people playing video games all day,” said student Thomas Charlton, a senior from Kennebunk, Maine, who is the team’s competitive coordinator. “It’s about team building, and community growth, and community outreach.”
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Charlton and Koczalka are both game production management majors at Champlain who plan on working in the video game and esports industry after graduation.
Globally, the esports industry has a market value of over $1 billion, according to 2022 data from the company Statista. The number of esports viewers in the U.S. this year is over 29 million — up 11% from last year, according to research company Insider Intelligence.
“The future of esports is looking incredibly bright,” Konczal said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for our students to get into this industry and help define its direction.”
Contact April Fisher at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @AMFisherMedia