Aldair Matias Garcia is the President of Esports at the University of Iowa
We recently spoke with Aldair Matias Garcia, the University of Iowa's President of Esports, about their program.
Animation Career Review: If you offer esports scholarships, please describe your program (full ride, in-state only, etc)
Aldair Matias Garcia: As much as we would like to, we do not offer scholarships right now. However, we are in the process of working with the university to develop a dedicated scholarship to gamers and esports competitors to the students of the University of Iowa.
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?
AMG: We are active on all social platforms as well as our university Campus Lab. We actively recruit for our teams throughout the year. We let our community know via our social media as well as our org fair and meetings throughout the year. If there is enough interest, we hold try outs and set the teams according to the results of the tryouts and the decisions of each teams captain. In addition, we hold tournaments that are open to the public that allow us to scout more competitors.
ACR: Esports are new to everyone. Please share with us the story of how your program came to fruition.
AMG: The Esports scene has always been an existing community at the University of Iowa, however, the previous management failed to grow this community to its full potential. Frankly before the new management took over, the club was inactive while having hundreds of members in our Discord Server sitting idle. Ever since new management took over, we have put in a great effort in revitalizing our community with a few examples being, hosting weekly and monthly tournaments in various games, LAN parties, viewing parties, as well as biweekly gatherings. Thus, throughout the course of the previous school year, the community has grown in participation and relevance within the University of Iowa. With the start of the new year, we have partnered with Tespa and have become one of its official Tespa Chapters. Although we have achieved tremendous growth throughout the past school year, our end goal does not end here. The new management team will continue to work hard to make sure that Esports achieves a level of relevance and importance that it deserves.
ACR: Describe the type of student are you seeking.
AMG: Due to our status as a University Organization, most of our members are part of the student body. However, all our events are open to the general public. This is because we believe that Esports has no boundaries. Whether you are a student or part of the work force, Esports is for everyone. It is an inclusive community that welcomes anyone and everyone with open arms.
ACR: As esports are so new, what are the common misconceptions people have about them?
AMG: A common misconception is that Esports is just a silly trend where kids waste their time playing videogames. When in reality Esports is all about the competitiveness of the game instead of the game itself. It’s the thrill of competing and climbing the ranks of the game you are playing. It’s the hunger to be the best and proving it. Esports are no different than traditional sports. Athletes in traditional sports spend hours practicing and honing their skills in order to beat the competition. It is the same in Esports. Gamers will spend hours upon hours practicing and improving to ultimately come out on top. So why is it that we are looked down upon?
ACR: What are the common concerns you hear from parents regarding esports participation?
AMG: The biggest concern we hear from parents is the fear the Esports and competing will become the biggest focus for their student, and that their education and grades will suffer. This is a very real concern; however, the parents need to understand that we as a university organization, does not condone this behavior. Our organization firmly believes that our members’ education will always come first. We focus heavily on imbedding the importance of their education. If our competitors do not maintain acceptable grades, then they will not be able to compete.
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?
AMG: It depends on the game. For example, the league that our Overwatch teams compete in has different competitors that the league that our Call of Duty team competes in. However, there are a lot of competitors. Most of the Big Ten schools generally compete in the leagues we compete in as well as smaller and bigger schools. As for opportunities to compete, there are plenty. We have multiple teams in various games that allow us to send our teams to tournaments and compete in leagues.
ACR: What can an esports student athlete expect in terms of time commitment? How many hours of play, practice, travel?
AMG: The time commitment for a player solely depends on the game, the league, and the competition that he or she chooses. For example, our Overwatch and Call of Duty teams have a set practice time every week, however, for games that require individual efforts such as fighting games, solely depends on the players willingness and commitment to honing their own skills and striving for greatness.
ACR: What are the academic expectations? Are there minimum GPA requirements? Do you offer study tables or other programs to support the student athletes?
AMG: Our competitors must not be failing any classes. If they are failing, then they will be removed from the team until they are able to bring their grades up. If a fellow gamer is struggling and is in need of help, then we all try to help them. We point them to tutors or the appropriate people to help them.
ACR: Share with us how your team is doing this season.
AMG: Since the school year has not begun, our teams’ seasons haven’t begun either. However, our Overwatch team made it to the Round of 32 of Nationals of the Overwatch Collegiate Championship. Our Call of Duty team placed 5th in their division of the CCL. Our Rocket League team competed in the CRL and the ISU LAN. They made it to the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively. They also competed in the Paradigm LAN and placed 2nd. We are currently recruiting for a new CS:GO team and a Rainbow 6: Siege team. We just added a DOTA 2 team as well.
ACR: Tell us about your coaching staff.
AMG: Our teams only have captains. They are in charge of running their teams, competing with the team, and setting up practices and logistics.
ACR: Tell us about your esports practice and/or competition facilities.
AMG: Unfortunately, we do not have our own dedicated space to hold practices. Our teams hold practices using their own equipment at their homes/dorms. As for our tournaments, we reserve multiple rooms in our University’s Memorial Union to host said events and tournaments. We are currently in negotiations with faculty in order to acquire a dedicated space.
ACR: Please share any unique qualities of your program (first one in state, emphasis on team)
AMG: One unique aspect is that we are self-sufficient. We do not hire any staff such as coaches or social media handlers. Every aspect of our club is ran by or watched over by students in the club. All of our competitive teams elect a captain who is a student and they are the ones in charge of training the team.
ACR: What advice do you have for prospective students wanting to pursue esports, as well as those specifically seeking esports scholarships?
AMG: It may be daunting at first and you might receive a lot of backlash from your family, but do not let that frighten you or stop you. If you are truly dedicated and passionate about Esports being your future, there are options out there. There are universities that off great Esports programs as well as scholarships. Its all about the passion and the hunger to become the best.
ACR: In what ways do participants in collegiate esports programs benefit?
AMG: For starters, they are allowed to study at a university in a program that they love and are passionate about. Who would have thought that Universities across the country would be offering programs in competitive video games? There is no better time than now to pursue your dreams. Another way competitors’ benefit is that they become part of a community that has the same goal and passion. They will never be alone and will have a support system of fellow gamers to help them achieve their goals.
ACR: Tell us about your goals for your program. (Do you expect to add more sports, scholarships, etc)
AMG: Our current one-year goal is to get approved for our own dedicated space to have our own Esports Arena. This will make hosting tournaments and events much easier and make them look more professional. Other goals include adding more teams to our program as well as adding scholarships to our competitors.
ACR: From a competitive esports standpoint, what is the single most significant moment or accomplishment that stands out in your program’s brief history?
AMG: For us, our greatest accomplishment so far is being accepted into the Tespa Chapter Program. Tespa is the leading group in college Esports. They help clubs in universities across the country in developing their programs as well as connecting them with educational materials and meetings that help club leaders grow the program to its full potential. Because we have been accepted, we can only go up from here.
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.