American University ESports team establishes itself as an official club sport

The club describes its plans moving forward after surviving the probationary year.

Kate Kessler, Assistant Editor

American University’s ESports team finished its probationary year as a club sport and is now looking to expand its presence on campus, the team’s president Emma Morrison, who uses she/they pronouns, said.

According to AU’s Club Sports website, the ESports team competes in three games: Valorant, League of Legends and Overwatch 2. Morrison said there are separate teams for each game, but they are all under one unified club sport. 

Morrison said that they play in the Mid-Atlantic Esports Conference, or the MAEC. The MAEC website said the conference consists of various collegiate-level esports teams in the DMV area. The MAEC’s goal is to create a league that fosters “friendly competition” for the growing esports scene in colleges, according to Esports Insider

There are over 532.1 million esports fans reported by statistics company DemandSage as of 2023. From 2020 to 2025, esports is expected to see a 6% growth in popularity. According to DemandSage, more than 60% of esports fans are in the 16-35 age demographic, and people ages 20-24 tend to be better at esports. 

AU Competitive Sports and Facilities Coordinator Jesse Geer said he oversees the ESports team. He said to establish a club sports team, the club must survive one “probationary” year without funding from the school. 

Geer said each member must pay $25 in dues, and if the club gains enough traction and funding, then it can start receiving money from the school’s allocated funds for club sports the next year. Geer said the esports team has done an especially great job at communicating with him through Do Sports Easy, a program which AU uses for clubs to enter their practices and events.

“We can track everything, the travel roster, what they spend so they can keep track of the budget,” Geer said. “But they’ve done a really good job, and they have a great system in place that keeps everything in order.”

Because the team was created in the Fall 2022 semester, they will be able to receive funds from the school starting in the Fall 2023 semester. Junior Andrew Stahovec said he started the team and was the president before he went abroad for the Spring 2023 semester. He said that the club started as a group of people who just got together and played Overwatch. 

Stahovec said he and a friend of his tried to establish their team as a school club, but were unsuccessful because the university didn’t have the “bandwidth” to support them. The group met as part of the AU Gamers club on campus after being denied by the AU Club Council. Stahovec said AU Gamers club helped set up their first meeting to gauge interest in having an esports club.

“That was probably in February of last year,” Stahovec said. “We got together and said, we could at least structure an Overwatch team, maybe a League of Legends team, and then a few scrimmages here and there. This was all kind of rag-tag. There was no AU admin oversight into this.”

From that point, Stahovec and his friend met with Manager of AU Club Sports Garrett Schmidt and discovered that they’d be able to establish the team there. Geer said the team needed to find the players to create a well-run team that could last for the year. Stahovec said the eboard members stepped up to keep the team afloat in its first semester. 

“I know those first couple of weeks were kind of tough because not only was the eboard figuring out what the club should be defined as, but we were also trying to figure out what our jobs should be defined as, and even beyond that, captains and players were trying to find their own positions,” Stahovec said. “Those first two weeks were kind of tough and it was inspiring to see how quickly people picked up the slack.”

Stahovec said League of Legends Team Captain Arnold Tran was someone who really stepped up to the plate and the League team’s success was partly due to Tran’s leadership. 

Morrison said the League of Legends team has been the most successful out of their three teams. She said that they qualified for the semifinals in their league. However, because the event took place in Shenandoah, Virginia, the team didn’t have the time or resources to get to the competition, so they gave up their spot in the competition to Shenandoah University’s team.

The League of Legends team also competed in George Mason University’s “Game Mason” esports tournament. Geer said that he enjoyed watching the League of Legends players enjoy themselves at the big event.

“It was a great event that George Mason did, and they really enjoyed that two days there,” Geer said. “They had arcade games there that they played, there was a concert, there was a guest speaker, so it was a really good event that they joined.”

Morrison said they received funds through their members’ dues and a “Pie an Esports Player” event held on the quad on Mar. 29. Morrison said that some of the teams they play against are much better-funded than they are and some schools even recruit players for their esports teams. 

For example, in 2020, George Mason’s esports team registered as a Departmental Student Organization, which gave them access to official computer rooms and increased school funds. Though Morrison said this makes it harder to attract members, they said it creates a good team environment.

“A lot of our skill levels are lower because we’re still new and haven’t attracted higher Elo players,” Morrison said. She said Elo is a statistic that calculates the general skill of a player.

“It’s just a matter of needing to get the word out,” Morrison said. “We have an esports program here now, and it’s going to go places, so join it while you can. Right now, we don’t do tryouts or anything. Even if we reach a point where we have to do tryouts and we have to pick players.”

Morrison said she still wants there to be an esports community since it is hard to find a community.

Tran said that the biggest challenge he’s faced with managing the team is finding substitutes if there aren’t enough available players to field their five-piece team. To combat this shortage, he said that the team began hanging posters throughout the campus. These posters, which contained video game characters she recognized, are how Morrison said she found the team.

“Around the time, I was playing a lot of Valorant, and I saw little characters that I recognized and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a team that I can go play on,’” Morrison said. 

In the future, Morrison said she wants to expand the team’s advertising so that they have a larger roster in the fall. Morrison said she plans to put up more posters, expand the team’s social media presence and hold more public events like the “Pie an Esports Player” event that will introduce the team to AU students.

“Starting really soon, we’re gonna start putting more fliers out to try and start recruiting for the fall because you really can’t wait until then,” Morrison said. “We have to be proactive instead of reactive.”

Geer said that the team plans to try to hire a coach once they receive school funds. Additionally, Morrison said that they’re currently talking to the computer company who sponsored Game Mason, Lenovo, about meeting with the team to teach them about computers and esports.

Morrison said her first priority is trying to find a gaming room so they can all physically meet together and possibly buying jerseys for the team. Morrison said she hopes that as the team grows, people don’t feel shut off from it if they aren’t as experienced in video games. 

Tran said that for the League of Legends team, he hopes that everyone can have fun above all else.

“I prefer that everyone has fun rather than winning,” Tran said. “I don’t care so much about winning if I am not enjoying myself playing the game.”

No matter how big the team gets, Morrison said she wants to keep the team’s original energy of friends gathering just because they love video games.

“All of our members have one thing in common: a passion for gaming or just the love of the game, no matter what it is, no matter what type of game, and then making sure that we have a very inclusive environment and all that stuff,” Morrison said.