“I’m so excited to get started,” Sarah-Charles “Charlie” Morrow says with enthusiasm.
Morrow, recently named head coach of Peninsula College’s new esports program, is charged with building the program from the ground up, as PC joins more than 125 college and university programs nationwide, where competitive video game play is a global sport.
For the uninitiated, esports is a worldwide series of video game competitions played by professional and collegiate gamers. The market made nearly $700M in revenue in 2017, with an audience of almost 400 million people, according to Forbes Magazine.
$12,000 in athletic scholarships will be available to students on the team during its inaugural season. Proposed games will include Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Hearthstone.
A Natural Fit
Since 2008, Morrow–a PC Running Start alumnus and Port Angeles High School grad–has competed in regional and national Super Smash Brothers Melee competitions, and names “Princess Peach” as her main game character. Over the last decade she has organized numerous tournaments, handling logistics such as venues and games.
She holds a Master of Arts degree in performance psychology from National University, specifically on mental skills training in esports.
Scouting for Talent
Booths at college and community events, campus flyers, social media posts and visits to local high schools to initiate interest are part of Morrow’s plan to reach potential players. There she hopes to gather contact information, take game recommendations, and promote the program to diverse, under-represented populations.
For Morrow, a successful first season includes building a competitive gaming presence on the Olympic Peninsula, and creating connections with other collegiate programs around the Pacific Northwest.
She would also like to organize free play sessions and a gaming club, where she can scout talent and follow up with local tryouts.
Traditional collegiate sports require that athletes be 18 years of age or older. According to Rick Ross, associate dean of athletics and student life, the program may seek to waive this rule so Running Start students can participate.
Building a Team
Team members will meet for practice five times per week, which will include scrimmages with team mates and neighboring schools. Athletes will focus on both physical and mental wellness, including interpersonal relationships and hand actions for fast, precise inputs, Morrow said.
Once competition starts, games will be open to public viewing and will be live streamed on Twitch.
At the end of the first year Morrow says she will evaluate the program’s goals and games, recruit more athletes, and continue education and research.
“I am very interested in, and open to, the idea of having intramural play and summer camps once the program is established,” Morrow said.
More Than Gaming
More than just gaming, esports can be help students grow their STEM, media, and business interests while developing valuable life skills.
“PC athletes participate in community service projects and play a significant role in the development of young players through camps, as well as engagement in elementary, middle school, and high school mentorship programs and school clinics,” Ross said.
According to an article in Forbes magazine, varsity scholarships for esports have been in existence since 2014. Since then, many colleges (including Division 1 schools) have started developing their own esports collegiate teams.
“We look forward to finding corporate sponsorships for our esports scholarships,” Ross said.