By Danielle Gadberry / Staff Writer
In 2019, Hutchinson Community College began an Esports program. Esports stands for “electronic sports”, and Esports teams are becoming more prevalent on college campuses nationwide.
The word ‘esport’ is used to describe any video game that has a professional competitive scene.
“Esports is a growing field of interest and competition in both professional and collegiate levels,” Blue Dragons coach Heath Hensley said.” The decision for HCC to start its program was made in early 2020, as other colleges in the area were already offering programs, however, the pandemic delayed its rollout until late 2020.”
Bailey Nachtigal, captain of the “Overwatch,” a 2016 team-based multiplayer first-person shooter game, said that he was ecstatic when HutchCC sent out a survey asking students if they would be interested in having or joining the Esports team.
Preparation for competition is a lot like what a competitor would do for any other sport. Gamers go through different strategies and scenarios so each player feels comfortable in their position.
“We always try to look at strategy, personnel issues, and other high-level things where it’s applicable,” Hensley said, “but I like to get the team captains involved in the practice and planning stages, as they are the real-time “play-callers” during the matches.”
Competition for the Esports team looks a little different than any other sport. The team uses a streaming service called Twitch to play. It allows for other people to watch as they compete, and for the teams to have separate chats so play doesn’t interfere.
Hensley is in charge of monitoring this program.
“This is my time to analyze team cohesiveness,” Hensley said. “Issues on offense/defense, and potential communication problems.”
Nachtigal, a Hutchinson sophomore, said he is proud of his “Overwatch” team and the way they have grown together this year.
“Our first match of the season, we got beat pretty badly, but we had our last official game on April 12 and we were on the other end of the spectrum,” Nachtigal said. “The cohesion within the team has grown immensely.”
There are scholarship opportunities for students who are interested in Esports.
With the inaugural season in the books, Hensley moves to the next season.
“It has been an immense honor to be the head coach through this first season. I couldn’t do it alone however, Misty Smiley, one of our ITS employees was appointed as a co-coach in February of this year, and she has been a huge help in everything we’ve done,” Hensley said. “I also owe a debt of gratitude to some of our students and other staff for helping through growing pains and other unforeseen situations. Without the teamwork of everyone here at HutchCC, we wouldn’t have had the success we did this semester.”