The first OP Live Dallas esports event was recently held at the Irving Convention Center. The event served as both a thrilling esports competition and esports educations summit. For example, it included the largest collegiate Overwatch tournament in North Texas and provided ways to help students in attendance to create their own esports programs at their schools.
That latter bit of information came from the Powered Talk given by Tyler Schrodt, the CEO of Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF). Schrodt created EGF when he was still in college. Today, EGF is helping students build esports programs on campuses across the nation.
“We work both across high school and college, with the idea that eventually we will get to the point where, if you are a high school student, you can go get a scholarship in college, go pro, and enjoy the same benefits that you would see in traditional sports,” said Schrodt.
“We do that in three primary ways. The first is that we run varsity programs across the country. Second, we handle a lot of development. So, we spend a lot of time working with administrators looking at what competitive teams are, what educational programs look like, and even designing facilities around the country. And the last thing we do is broadcast and event production to make sure that, when these teams are up and running, they have a really great forward step and people get to recognize them.
“The reason that we get to exist is because there are so many colleges now that offer some form of esports scholarship. There are more than 85 across the country, which is this awesome trend that we are seeing. It makes me wish that I had graduated five years later so I could be a part of that.”
Schrodt’s presentation was focused on the six steps that students need to take to establish an esports program on their campus.
What’s Your Purpose?
According to Schrodt, the first step is fulling understand the intent and scope of the plan.
“Once you figure out whether you are starting a club for the first time, whether you are looking at how to start something new or get more support for your club all the way up to getting a varsity program: you can’t ask for help unless you know what you actually want,” said Schrodt.
We Need a Plan
Once students have a firm grasp on what they are trying to accomplish with their esports agenda, they need to formulate a plan. This way, when they go before college administrators, they will be able to answer the countless number of questions sure to be thrown their way.
“The biggest things that we find when we work with administrators is they want to know what is already happening on your campus,” said Schrodt. “So, if you are an existing club, they want to know how many members you already have, what kind of events you are participating in, all the different things that really show them that this is important to students. Because you are going to find that a lot of them maybe didn’t grow up in a generation playing video games and so you are going to have to show them why that’s important and why that adds value to what you are doing.”
Photo Credit: UCI Esports
Can You Spare a Moment?
The next step is to schedule a meeting with a school administrator to pitch them on the idea of an organized esports program. This can actually be pretty difficult because administrators are very busy people, especially in larger schools.
“Use your advisor. Use the administrators on campus that you are friendly with and get an introduction from them directly, because that will give you more creditability if you are a student,” said Schrodt. “Sometimes it’s as simple as an email. In the email, you have to focus on why they should be talking to you. Because, again, if they have limited time, you have to show why you are valuable. If the email doesn’t work, the easiest thing is to just show up at their office and schedule a meeting with their secretary.”
Schrodt also stressed that it was important not to let rejection get the students down. In fact, they should be prepared for it – at least initially.
“When I was doing this on my campus, the person that we went to was the university president. He didn’t take our meeting at the time, but we kept at it. Eventually, what we came to find was that there was interest across the administration.”
We Need to Talk
The initial meeting is where students are given their first opportunity to lay out their plans. Being as prepared as possible is essential. This includes knowing how an esports program can be beneficial to your specific school, how many students are currently involved, where you see the program in the near and far future, what does the budget look like, and where the resources need to come from for the program to be successful.
“This meeting is the most important first impression that you will have for getting an esports program on your campus,” said Schrodt.
Make sure that you leave the meeting with some next steps in place, which can range from a set time for another meeting to a plan for how you are going to achieve your agenda to one of several steps in between.
“In these cases, we always say, phone a friend,” said Schrodt, “specifically us, because we do this all the time and can make your life a lot easier.
“Our biggest thing is working with these administrators to help them understand not just why but how. For us, that means laying out these plans for how the esports program is going to be staffed, what it is going to be budgeted, and ultimately what system are you going to be a part of. Once you have gone through this step, there is going to be repetition. You are going to have many, many meetings across campus for anything that you want to ask. So, we are always there as a resource to help.”
Photo Credit: SMU Guildhall Facebook
Follow Up is Key
Regardless of how the meeting went, it is essential to follow up.
“As you’re working through these follow-up processes and working with people outside of campus, you are going to start to see people slowly change their mind. Sometimes it’s something that administrators are really excited about, and it happens immediately; sometimes it takes years. When I was at RIT trying to get this to happen, it literally took us until this last year (2017) to get things to where we wanted to go. And I graduated in 2013. It can be a little slow, but you’ll get there eventually.”
What’s Going to Make This Hard?
Schrodt closed his presentation with a look at some of the difficulties that students may encounter while trying to establish their esports program.
His first point was to reiterate that administrators frequently have a lack of knowledge about esports that students have to overcome.
Next, he brought up the fact that esports might not be for everyone.
“We’ve been told that video games are the devil more than once – in a very, very serious way. You have to expect that sometimes you’re just not talking to the right person. That’s why you keep having those meetings. Keep having those conversations and build out from there,” said Schrodt.
The third obstacle he mentioned was campus politics. There are always going to be competing interests, and to get an esports program off the ground, students are going to have to find a way to bring people together and overcome internal fighting.
“The last element is that sometimes it’s just not the right time. I mentioned that it took a while for us to get things going at RIT. Sometimes the budget’s just not right. Sometimes the campus is going through a lot of different changes. Just keep going, keep trying, and if you need help: ask.”