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Erick Johnson and Michael Hinder are the Esports Coaches at MSOE
We recently spoke the Milwaukee School of Engineering about their esports program.
Animation Career Review: What are the esports in which your school participates?
MSOE: We participate in League of Legends, Rocket League, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate.
ACR: If you offer esports scholarships, please describe your program (full ride, in-state only, etc)
MSOE: We do not offer esports scholarships at this time.
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?
MSOE: We connect with students at Accepted Student Days and Open Houses. Potential students are identified by their achievements in their respective games as well as their desire to improve and compete. Students wanting to connect with our program can email the coaches at [email protected] and [email protected].
ACR: Esports are new to everyone. Please share with us the story of how your program came to fruition.
MSOE: At MSOE we are always trying to find new ways to improve the student experience. We knew that a number of our students played popular esports games and it wasn’t much of a stretch to assume that a portion of them were high achieving in said game. We surveyed the students to validate our assumption and got a strong response that esports was definitely something that our student body was interested in.
ACR: Describe the type of student are you seeking
MSOE: We seek students that are ranked highly in their respective game, want to play in a competitive environment, and have the desire to improve and win.
ACR: As esports are so new, what are the common misconceptions people have about them?
MSOE: A common misconception is that students are wasting their time or not being productive by playing a video game. In fact they are receiving similar benefits to physical sports such as building communication, leadership, teamwork, and critical thinking skills.
ACR: What are the common concerns you hear from parents regarding esports participation?
MSOE: A common concern from parents is that their child will spend more hours playing video games instead of doing schoolwork. We reassure them that all our esports athletes must have above a 2.0 to compete. In addition, both of the head coaches also work in the campus tutoring center, the Raider Center for Academic Success (RCAS).
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?
MSOE: Every tournament treats divisions a little differently. Some tournaments break it down as North, South, East, West while others compete solely at the regional level or national level. There are multiple opportunities across multiple tournaments for our competitors to play. Every game has at least 1 major tournament a year to compete in.
ACR: What can an esports student athlete expect in terms of time commitment? How many hours of play, practice, travel?
MSOE: We expect our athletes to attend weekly practices as well as play at least 2-5 hours outside of practice, depending on the game. While we do host some local competitions, the majority of games are played online so there is no travel.
ACR: What are the academic expectations? Are there minimum GPA requirements? Do you offer study tables or other programs to support the student athletes?
MSOE: All esports athletes must have a 2.0 GPA or higher to compete. Both of the head coaches also work in the campus tutoring center, the Raider Center for Academic Success (RCAS). We help set them up with 1-1 or small group tutoring as well as study tables.
ACR: Share with us how your team is doing this season.
MSOE: League of Legends: Our team was formed after the deadline for entry for the main collegiate tournaments, so we focused on practicing and scrimming against other teams.
Rocket League: Competed in the Tespa Collegiate Rocket League spring tournament where our varsity team finished 6-2 despite only being an official team for 9 days.
Overwatch: Has had friendly matches with Midwest Universities such as Trine University. We will be entering our first tournament this Fall.
Hearthstone: Our Hearthstone teams competed in the Tespa Hearthstone Collegiate series. One of our teams had a record of 14 – 5 and made it through the regional portion of the tournament into the group stages.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate: We have hosted 2 collegiate tournaments on campus for Smash Bros, we have invited University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and Marquette University to compete with us in the tournaments. We had a total of about 35 entrants.
ACR: Tell us about your coaching staff.
MSOE: Michael Hinder is the Coordinator of Tutoring Services for MSOE. He first became interested in esports in 2013 after watching The International 3, the premier tournament for Dota 2. In his free time, he enjoys playing Rocket League, League of Legends, and Stardew Valley.
Erick Johnson is the Physics Specialist for MSOE. He has always been interested in videogames especially the competitive aspect. His favorite genre of games are fighting games, such as Super Smash Bros, Dragonball FighterZ, and Marvel vs Capcom.
ACR: Tell us about your esports practice and/or competition facilities.
MSOE: We practice and compete in the MSOE Gaming Center, which is located in the Kern Center, MSOE’s health, wellness, fitness and recreation facility. The MSOE Gaming Center opened in February of 2019 and houses 18 PCs for students to use. Every station has a mechanical keyboard, headset, and mouse although every player typically brings their own mouse. Every game has an official weekly practice for 2 hours with the coaches and can range from gameplay and scrims to VOD review.
ACR: Please share any unique qualities of your program (first one in state, emphasis on team)
MSOE: MSOE is the first college in south-eastern Wisconsin to have esports listed as a club sport for students. Our main focus is on how to be a high achiever not only in esports but also in the classroom.
ACR: What advice do you have for prospective students wanting to pursue esports, as well as those specifically seeking esports scholarships?
MSOE: Play as many amateur tournaments as you can. Aim high when competing in ranked matchmaking and don’t neglect your schoolwork. You need to be academically eligible to compete on a team in the first place.
ACR: In what ways do participants in collegiate esports programs benefit?
MSOE: Students in esports build their communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. Many of these games, when played at home, have players competing as a team but with limited communication in some form or fashion. Being in esports forces them to make call-outs in the moment as well as review how the game went as a team. Team captains have to organize outside practice and scrims with other captains or professional staff from other colleges.
ACR: Tell us about your goals for your program. (Do you expect to add more sports, scholarships, etc)
MSOE: We’re adding Starcraft II to our game offerings this year. We’re always on the lookout for which upcoming games get picked up in the collegiate tournament scene and if our students show interest, we will consider starting a team. Scholarships are something that we’re currently looking in to as well.
ACR: From a competitive esports standpoint, what is the single most significant moment or accomplishment that stands out in your program’s brief history?
MSOE: In their first tournament, our Hearthstone team made it out of regionals and onto the second day of competition.
Check out more interviews at The Animation Career Review Interview Series.