NAU Esports Club Gains Recognition and Popularity as Team Becomes Official Sport in Fall | Local

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ZACH BRADSHAW Special for the Daily Sun

Despite all the things esports is – gritty, competitive and more – esports is becoming the same. And Northern Arizona University is helping usher in a new era of athletics that invites the world of electronic gaming.

Starting in the fall of 2022, Northern Arizona will officially recognize its esports team as part of the athletic department.

The move comes following a surge of gamers joining the gaming movement. Currently, there are over 1,050 active players in NAU Esports.

The team offers eight different video games to compete in: Rocket League, Halo, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege, Counter-Strike: Global Offense, Overwatch, Valorant and League of Legends.

This spring has been one of the best playing seasons Northern Arizona has ever seen. The League of Legends team was crowned Big Sky Conference champions and the Rocket League team finished second for their respective sport. The Call of Duty team came in with a one-spot victory in the playoffs.

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To be considered part of the athletic department is monumental, said team executive Richard Young.

The team will now be able to benefit from significant financial support from the university. The money can be invested in new gaming equipment – ​​headsets or computers with large RAM storage for example – as well as funding trips to out-of-state tournaments (which has prevented the Esports team to participate in many competitions last year).

Additionally, being within the athletic department means the team can now offer scholarships, which incentivizes potential players to join the Northern Arizona team.

“Most colleges pay their players,” Young said. “The university will offer recruiting scholarships that will help the program find outside talent.”

The new funding will also encourage students to serve on the team’s board of directors. The program director can receive up to $62,000, while program coordinators can receive up to $82,000. Freshman recruits can receive up to $20,000 in scholarships, while up to $5,000 will be invested in promotional events on campus.

Players on a top team within NAU Esports can receive up to $65,000, and approximately $1,500 will go toward team travel expenses.

“It’s really hard to run a club when there’s not a lot of support. We tried raffles and giveaways, but nothing really seemed to raise funds,” Young said. , will help us strengthen the team.”

Young is a firm believer that esports should be viewed as sport because it requires relentless attention and mental savvy.

“Esports is mentally demanding,” says Call of Duty team captain Young. “It’s super competitive, there’s constant gameplay, and it’s not just a casual thing that anyone can do.”

Young has been playing for the team for two years and knows the esports environment is fierce.

“One thing about esports is the moment you don’t play, someone improves,” he said. “You constantly have to be in front of a screen.”

Young says there are several factors to consider in a game. There are several players with different tasks, like directing a submachine gun or long-range rifle. His job is to facilitate all the players and make sure the team is on the same page.

“I’m supposed to be the aggressor in the game and be an anchor while the others hold all the angles long,” Young said. “And that’s the strategic mindset of the game – it’s mental. You’re not just playing video games, there’s a strategy to that.

Young led marketing and communications for the esports team for about a year and helped make the social media page one of the most popular in all of esports. In the month of February, the NAU Esports Instagram account garnered nearly 45 million impressions, or views, of its posts, which ranks fifth among all esports Instagram accounts nationwide.

Wins like these cannot be taken lightly, Young said, as they are a sign of the growing popularity of esports.

“I love my teammates, they’re my boys, you know?” said Young. “We’ve had our ups and downs and we have our egos, but whenever we have issues we don’t take it personally. Being able to play with people like that creates a lot of chemistry.

Young treasures his time on the team, as it has helped him build new relationships and find new opportunities.

“The esports team helped me get an internship with a team in Minnesota and now I’m working for them,” Young said. “I’ve found that being in PR for an esports team is my dream job, and I have something in common with all the relationships I’ve made: we all have a love for the Game.”

In March, Young was given the opportunity to join the esports team at Bethany College in Kansas. The school offered Young a full scholarship to direct marketing and communications, but Young declined.

He said he helped build both the NAU Esports social media accounts and the Call of Duty team to what they are today, and that he couldn’t just walk away from his unit. origin.

“The work is not finished; I have to finish what I started,” he said.

Young, a future junior, believes NAU Esports won’t reach its full potential until he graduates. But for now, Young is happy to have helped the team get to where they are today.

“It’s really cool to be one of the founding fathers,” Young said. “I’m kind of like the godfather.”

Young encourages everyone, regardless of experience or skill level, to try out for the team, as it helps members gain valuable experience not just in esports, but in all sports.

“Even if you don’t play, there’s a place for you in esports – you can be a general manager, you can live stream matches, you can do graphic design or learn event management,” Young said. “The skills you learn in esports can apply to any other sport, and it’s a great resume builder.”

The NAU Esports team can be found on most major social media platforms. The tournament runs year-round, with all matches streamed live on Twitch.

Now that scholarships can be given out as incentives, Young hopes more people will want to join in on the esports action.

“The main thing in college is just trying new things. But seriously, how cool would it be to play something you love and get paid for it?” he said.

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