UM freshman Kevin Menendez gets his head in the game at esports tryouts. Photo by Waid Jones
Esports hopefuls gathered in Strong Hall’s room 126 to compete for 15 available spots on Montevallo’s burgeoning esports team during the program’s first tryout.
The event, held on March 9, had 24 high school, community college and UM students who compete for 10 positions on the League of Legends team, and five spots on the team’s Fortnite squad, a recent addition to the team’s focus for fall 2019.
The tryouts lasted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and featured three rounds of League of Legends and continuous Fortnite throughout. Of the 24 players in attendance, the majority were high school and community college students interested in transferring to or attending UM for the first time.
Dr. Brendan Beal, an associate professor of social work and the team’s coach was pleased with the outcome.
“It was a gigantic success,” said Beal. “It was an outstanding turnout and the amount of talent we had was surprising.”
Beal noted that all of the players who showed up were coachable and had enough skill to help the team grow and be competitive.
Of those in attendance, Brett Doster, currently a sophomore at Georgia State University traveled the furthest.
Doster was the only student with previous experience playing League of Legends at the collegiate level, as he founded and coached a club-style organization at Georgia State.
Doster cited Beal’s willingness to listen to players as a unique aspect of the program and a major motivating factor for his interest in possibly attending UM to play for the team.
“It is really interesting that anyone can do it, and it’s like another side of a hobby bringing it to the competitive level. That side of it is interesting,” noted Kevin Menendez, a freshman psychology major and current UM soccer player, when discussing esports similarities to traditional sports. “There’s a lot of people who do this every day, and it’s good that it pays off for them in some sort of way.”
The tryouts also attracted UM student Jackson Kennedy, a junior political science major, because the opportunity to be a part of the team during its first season was too much to pass up.
While the program’s first tryout attracted more students than expected, the team’s next hurdle will be getting them all to apply and be accepted to UM, a step that has to happen before any of the prospective transfers or first time students can be offered a spot on the team or any of the scholarship money the program has to offer.
The program also has to fight for legitimacy in a college setting in rural Alabama, and the turnout and enthusiasm for the program’s tryout should be a major step toward this.
Dr. John Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo, said that at first, he didn’t know what esports was, but once he did more research, he believed the program would be a major complement to existing programs on campus.
“When folks started talking about esports to me I was not sure about what it meant so I looked into it,” said Stewart. “As I waded into it a little bit, I learned that it is a wonderful complement to our existing game studies and design program and our faculty members who are in game studies and have been involved with MOG and other efforts the campus has with gaming and the other initiatives the campus has with gaming.”
“I think it’s sort of part and parcel to our University’s mission to remain current and cater to students’ passions and interests,” noted Stewart. “We need to make sure that students can come here and do the things they want to do.”
The organization now has to build its roster from those who played at the tryout and begin to narrow down the specifics of the team and future play schedule. Beal is confident that the talent pool was more than enough to build an excellent team.
Waid Jones was the editor-in-chief of The Alabamian during the 2019–2020 academic year. In 2018, while managing editor of The Alabamian, he received the Veterans of Influence Rising Star Award from the Birmingham Business Journal. Prior to coming to UM he was in the U.S. Marine Corps for two and a half years. Jones graduated with a degree in political science from UM in 2020. He is currently the news editor for the Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro, Alabama.