A small group of trees clumped together, receiving the proper nourishment, can one day grow to be much bigger. Esports is quickly turning into a forest.
With the popularity of competitive esports on the rise throughout high schools and colleges, so too is the need to bring all the esports leaders together and provide proper enrichment. Although some are able to give guidance to those experiencing hurdles or frustrations, many new esports leaders simply need community and camaraderie.
That’s why the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD) is so valuable. It plays an integral part by equipping coaches and directors at the club, high school, collegiate, and professional levels.
NAECAD recently hosted its 3rd annual Classic and Clinic in Des Moines, Iowa, at Grand View University, bringing together those who lead esports programs and those stakeholders who are trying to figure out how esports can play a role in their schools. Many well-known figures within competitive esports attended the event, which has grown every year.
Presenters from across the United States and Canada shared their expertise and passion for esports. Keynote sessions covered topics at the macro level, while breakout sessions were tailored to high schools and colleges, from beginner to established programs.
“We have found there are some talented individuals within the esports industry who have a heart for growing competitive esports at all levels,” says Dr. Jay Prescott, the executive director of NAECAD. “Their willingness to help others succeed is like something I have never seen in any other sport.
“It is important to have a community where individuals can celebrate successes, discuss frustrations, and share ideas. Often times, constituents on a campus do not quite understand esports at an adequate level to provide the necessary support. This results in leaders of a program with no place to turn and trying to figure things out on their own. The combination of all program structures and support looking differently, and little to no past history, makes running a successful program difficult as leaders are seeking some sort of guidance.”
Coaching them up
Most coaches in traditional sports start by entering in a lower-level position and learn from veteran coaches, before working their way up to becoming a head coach. In esports, many with a desire to coach are instantly leading their programs and becoming head coaches without any experience other than possibly gaming experience.
According to Prescott, there are many pieces that must come together in order to run a successful program, and that learning from others can only accelerate the process.
“When one person or team struggles in a given area, there is likely somebody out there who does that area well and can provide appropriate insight and guidance,” he says. “The NAECAD welcomes anyone passionate about competitive esports to become part of this community to help grow the sport and so more gamers can reap the benefits competitive esports has to offer beyond just the game.”
The NAECAD Clinic and Classic not only offered a breadth of learning opportunities in its sessions but also featured collegiate League of Legends tournament with an $8,500 prize pool. The LAN (local area network) event with a live shoutcaster gave a firsthand glimpse of the excitement, community, and opportunities esports has to offer.
During the Clinic, Grand View University also provided a tour of its esports arena. With its 35 PC setups, LED lighting, black painted walls, and decked out stations, as well as a player’s lounge for video on demand, the space gave attendees, many who were there for the first time, a glimpse into how a strong collegiate program operates.
NAECAD’s year-round mission
Prescott says conferences are an integral component of NAECAD, providing great opportunities for both professional development and networking at a variety of sites across the U.S. Recently, NAECAD shifted its National Conference to coincide with the newly launched Academic Esports Conference & Expo in October in Chicago.
- October 19-21, 2020 Hilton Chicago, Chicago, IL
- January 26-29, 2021 Orlando County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
- March 5-6, 2021 Grand View University, Des Moines, IA
- June, 2021 TBD, Las Vegas, NV
During its National Conference, NAECAD is planning to host its inaugural awards ceremony, where it will honor its Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Director of the Year.
“Important in any sport, the NAECAD is the first to recognize those who are making significant impacts in their respective roles within competitive esports,” Prescott says. “Player awards are based on performance, character, and influence. Performance includes both gaming skills and academic success. The character is based on the mental and moral qualities possessed by the individual. The influence focuses on the positive impact serving as a role model to his/her teammates and the broader school community.”
In the coming weeks, the NAECAD expects to add another component to its organization that will foster leadership, advocacy, and professional development – a certification program. Prescott says the NAECAD-CP will provide quality and accessible professional development for competitive esports leaders who want to improve their knowledge and track their learning. It also will help organizations hiring high school, college, and professional level esports coaches and directors and formalizes certification levels to be recognized within the competitive esports ecosystem.
“As with any association, power comes from its members’ engagement and contributions. By bringing together the leaders within competitive esports and producing a strong, unified voice, the end result will be creating a positive, transformational experience for the countless student/athletes who consider esports their community,” says Prescott.
To learn more about the opportunities NAECAD provides go to www.naecad.org. Coaches and directors who want to be a part of the organization can sign up for a year-round membership for $150.
Chris Burt is the Esports Editor for University Business and the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo in October.