By Xander Swain
As students begin to settle into the spring semester, spring athletics are finally getting their seasons started. Last semester, the Montevallo Esports team managed to make it to the Overwatch quarterfinals in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC). Although they lost the match, the Overwatch team proved their potential in the PBC by ending the season 6-4.
This semester, the Esports team is competing in League of Legends. There are also plans on entering competition for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but so far there are no official dates. Although it was a close match, the League of Legends team lost 0-2 against Lander University.
Emily Dickerson, the Montevallo Esports Public Relations Assistant, said, “The team holds the ideal that winning isn’t and shouldn’t necessarily be the main focus…at the moment. Right now, our main concern as a team is to grow and learn, whether that be through losing or winning.”
Going into the new season, the Esports team has also brought in a new assistant coach, Austin Gibson. Gibson currently plays for the Auburn University Esports team but will be balancing his time between the two programs.
Gibson joined the Montevallo program at the end of January and had initially tried out for the Esports team last year.
“He was liked at the tryouts last year, and that has carried over all of this time. The team is especially receiving of [him],” said Dickerson.
Currently, Gibson will be working with the League of Legends team “to promote growth in numerous ways,” according to Dickerson.
She continued, “He is coaching individual players while also coaching the team on a larger scale. He is also providing higher morale and directly supports all of the current players on the team.”
With ten years of Esports competition, Gibson hopes to bring his varied experience in play and coaching to the program.
Gibson also hopes to bring his own philosophy to the team.
“I endorse optimism that’s grounded in realism,” he said. “I’m optimistic for the future of this program and Esports. The potential of each player is high, and I’ve witnessed significant individual and collective progress within the last couple weeks.”
Along with the recent addition of their assistant coach, the Esports team is looking for new players to join the program.
Coach Beal and Gibson will be heading the tryouts on Feb. 20. The tryouts are held at Magic City ePLEX with the proper COVID-19 precautions, such as social distancing, masks and equipment cleaning. If players want to try out but do not feel comfortable in person, tryouts will also be on Discord.
The Esports practice room will be available to all players Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Following COVID-19 guidelines, there are capacity limits to the room and social distancing and mask requirements. The Esports program will also be using Discord to do additional practices or competitions.
Overall, the goal for the program this semester is “growth.”
“We’re looking to not only be better people, be not only a better team but also a better program.” said Dickerson. “Winning certainly isn’t everything, so we’re going to take the position of learning from our mistakes and not becoming disheartened by the losses we may or may not face.”
The program also hopes to make progress in breaking down the stereotypes and stigmas that surround competitive gaming.
“When people hear the phrase ‘competitive video games,’ the first thing they think of is a bunch of men, sitting in a room, yelling at some screens, when that’s not [the reality]. As an Esports team, we work on bonding exercises, [physical training], and [are currently] implementing a mental health check system,” said Dickerson.
Through team-wide support, Dickerson and the rest of the program hope to “not only be [better] than we were at the start but [be] a better program through cooperative growth with one another.
Some of that support includes a new mental health check-up system that will be established within the team.
Head Coach Brendan Beal decided that “forcing players to win and compete isn’t the first priority of the Esports team.”
Dickerson said, “Coach Beal preaches and prides himself in saying that mental health comes first.”
The creation of the mental health check-up system was a team-wide decision.
“For now, [the goal] is making sure players are not only on top of their schoolwork but also doing simple things like walking around their living space and drinking water,” said Dickerson.
“Our goals are to provide reassurance for players, but also to provide a confidant for players who may see it hard to talk to anyone else.”
Looking to the future, the Esports team hopes to be a more inclusive program that is known to the Montevallo community.
“We are planning on having in-person fundraisers after COVID-19, but for now, we’re working on streaming fundraisers,” said Dickerson.
The program also hopes to work with other on-campus organizations such as Game Studies and Design, Montevallo Organization of Gaming, and organizing mixers with Greek Life.
“Coach Beal, as well as the rest of the team, is determined to make Montevallo Esports a household name among the Montevallo community,” said Dickerson.