Travis Young is the Assistant Esports Coach at Ashland University
ACR recently spoke to Travis Young, Assistant Esports Coach at Ashland University about their program.
Animation Career Review: What are the esports in which your school participates?
Travis Yang: We currently offer Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fortnite, and League of Legends.
ACR: If you offer esports scholarships, please describe your program (full ride, in-state only, etc)
TY: We offer esports specific scholarships (in addition to academic scholarships offered by the university). Our esports scholarships are available for all students with no distinction to in-state or out-of-state. The amount can vary depending on financial need and the skill level of the student.
ACR: Please fill us in on your recruiting efforts. How are potential students identified? Key stats? What can a student do to connect with your program?
TY: We recruit for every team based on what is needed. If we have a solid lineup, we won’t recruit for that game and instead let the students play together and develop consistency. For games that do need students, we look at a combination of in-game stats (eg. winrates, rankings) and also try to get a mental profile of the potential recruits.
ACR: esports are new to everyone. Please share with us the story of how your program came to fruition.
TY: Esports was championed by a few key individuals at our university including the provost, members of the athletic board, and admissions director. This in combination with a strong motivation by the university to stay ahead of the curve lead to the board of trustees quickly approving esports and housing it under the athletics department. From there it was just a matter of getting a facility built and hiring the staff to start recruitment and program development.
ACR: Describe the type of student are you seeking
TY: We look for students with a good mindset, strong academic base, and solid in-game skills. We understand that not all students come in meeting all the criteria to the fullest, but we strive to help our students grow in these ways throughout their time with the team.
ACR: As esports are so new, what are the common misconceptions people have about them?
TY: A lot of people argue whether esports should be compared to traditional sports, or how they overlap. If anything, esports should be viewed in parallel to traditional sports. Both cover multiple forms of competition across a wide age range, and most importantly both provide a healthy and structured competitive outlet for individuals. Participants in any sport should be able to recognize the hard work and dedication of their peers across boundaries.
ACR: What are the common concerns you hear from parents regarding esports participation?
TY: Concerns in the collegiate esports environment usually involve academic performance in relation to their esports participation. We always place academics first and utilize many resources (eg. tutoring, academic counselors, academic tracking, eligibility standards) provided by the athletics department to help keep students on track for academic success
ACR: Tell us about the season. What other schools are in your division and conference? How many opportunities are there to compete for a student athlete?
TY: Depending on the game, different online conferences are available. Some of the largest ones include the Collegiate Starleague, Tespa, and CLOL. The seasons usually run through both semesters and during the initial stages most schools are placed in regional groups. For example our Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team competes against schools in Ohio like the University of Akron, Tiffin University, and Miami University in initial group stages of the Collegiate Starleague.
ACR: What can an esports student athlete expect in terms of time commitment? How many hours of play, practice, travel?
TY: Usually students are practicing 6-9 hours of official structured practice every week. On top of that is another 10-20 hours of general individual play that occurs in their free time. Generally travelling only occurs a few times a semester, and usually on the weekends.
ACR: What are the academic expectations? Are there minimum GPA requirements? Do you offer study tables or other programs to support the student athletes?
TY: The athletics department sets minimum GPA requirements (for our university students are required to maintain a 2.0 cumulative each academic year). On top of base requirements, the esports program requires study tables based on student’s semesterly GPA. The coaching staff meets with every student individually twice a semester for academic/career check-ins, to make sure the student is doing well and to help when needed.
ACR: Share with us how your team is doing this season.
TY: This past year all of our teams did really well. All teams qualified for playoffs in their individual conferences or won regional live tournaments. In addition to team results, many individual students competed and won tournaments on their own time.
ACR: Tell us about your coaching staff.
TY: Our coaching staff consists of two full-time staff: Head Coach Joshua Buchanan and Assistant Esports Coach Travis Yang. Both staff have extensive experience in semi/professional esports and management.
ACR: Tell us about your esports practice and/or competition facilities.
TY: All of our official practices take place in our dedicated esports facility. Practices occur on a set schedule every week and are always overseen by a coach. The facility consists of 25 high-end gaming PCs with setups designed to provide maximum comfort to the student.
ACR: Please share any unique qualities of your program (first one in state, emphasis on team)
TY: We were the first varsity program to offer scholarships for Fortnite. This lead to international coverage that continues to this day, and has helped establish Ashland University as a leader in collegiate esports. We place a huge emphasis on providing a great experience for every student.
ACR: What advice do you have for prospective students wanting to pursue esports, as well as those specifically seeking esports scholarships?
TY: Keep putting in time and never stop perfecting your craft. Study your gameplay but also take time to look at your mentality and improve in-and-out of the game.
ACR: In what ways do participants in collegiate esports programs benefit?
TY: Students in collegiate esports get to participate in a completely new and unique experience that can help propel them in their careers after school.
ACR: Tell us about your goals for your program. (Do you expect to add more sports, scholarships, etc)
TY: Our main goals for the first few years revolve around figuring out the optimal balance for students between esports and academic life, and what experiences are the most valuable for them.
ACR: From a competitive esports standpoint, what is the single most significant moment or accomplishment that stands out in your program’s brief history?
TY: One of our Fortnite duos was invited to and flew out to compete at DreamHack Atlanta in an invitational against other major collegiate powerhouses. Other than that just that our first year went over well and the students were happy and excited for the upcoming year of competition.
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.