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More Than Just Athletics are Recruiting at SIU

The Esports logo for SIU in the Esports arena that has a saluki wearing a headset
Ethan Holder
The Esports logo for SIU in the Esports arena that has a saluki wearing a headset

Athletics are not the only sports that have been recruiting at Southern Illinois University this semester.

The various Esports teams on campus have been hosting social and professional events to both recruit for their teams and grow their communities.

The Esports Arena opened in August of 2018. The arena is both open to the public and serves as the home base for the competitive teams. Jack Parker, a senior on the team that plays the game called Overwatch, says the league’s season functions very similarly to traditional sports.

“Yea, we have a league that we play in and we play other colleges in the general area, we play them online. So, each semester you play for the whole semester and at the end of the year, there’s nationals. Which is where all the teams from around the country will all play against each other and that’s where you can win the money” Parker said.

Parker currently runs both the maroon and black Overwatch teams. Junior Chapin Hammers says last fall was the team’s best performance.

“I would say last fall was our greatest accomplishment. I think we did really well. It was my first semester on the team so I think we progressed a lot and really enjoyed it” Hammers said.

The Black team, considered the Varsity, finished 9-0 last fall while the Maroon team, or the JV, finished 3-6. The Black team also went to the semifinals in that semester's playoffs. For this season, Parker says the goal is to improve upon last fall's success.

“Outdo last year, because last year, as far as I’m aware, was our most successful year of Overwatch. So, just hoping to help people improve, help people have fun, and just play as well as we can” Parker said.

The Black team's success can also be attributed to Coach Gary Harness, a SIU graduate, who says he became the coach because he wanted to stay involved after graduating.

“It was my first semester on the Overwatch team. I had joined as a favor to my roommate so that they could have a JV team and I actually really enjoyed it so I hung around with the club and came back to coach this season” Harness said.

While he enjoys coaching the team, it is not always what it is cracked up to be. He says being friends with a lot of the players can make it hard to make the best decisions for the team.

“It’s weird being a coach for people that you’re friends with and peers with because sometimes you’re gonna have to make decisions, maybe sub people out, do that sort of thing, and it feels bad to that to a friend sometimes” Harness said.

Even with a roster full of players and friends he needs to coach, the team is always looking for more players. Harness says the team is using multiple methods of recruiting potential players.

“We have the flyers around the school and we have the discord server. People who come to SIU find out about the discord server, join, and we’ll have little meetups like we did this week and we’ll play games and hopefully people are interested and join. It’s not a completely competitive environment. When we’re here, we are playing casually, doing random stuff, and funny little custom games” Harness said.

The most recent casual event hosted in the arena was an Overwatch game night. At the event, students and professional players would come to have fun competing in friendly matches amongst each other. Chapin Hammers says her love for this video game is what led her to the social events and playing on the team.

“I’ve been playing Overwatch since 2016 and it was something that I always loved. When I saw that they had a team I was like, that would be great for me cause I would love to meet people that play and I would love to beat other schools at it” Hammers said.

The Esports organization also hosts events for games like valorant, call of duty, apex legends, and many more. While competing at these social events there can be a lot of “trash talk” between the players. On the Overwatch team, most of the banter comes from Alex Best, a junior on the team.

“YOOOO,Y’all suck! Oh my gosh! I didn’t know it was pre-school day, oh my gosh!” Best said.

With this trash talking also comes a lot of confidence. Best, ironically, holds the opinion that he is the best overwatch player on the team.

“I’m the carry of the team, quite honestly. Without me, they’re nothing” Best said.

Hammers says she is not so convinced that he is the best. However, she does think that his confidence is an asset to the team.

“His ego helps us, I think. I think it’s the moral booster that we need. I don’t know if the bark is as big as the bite or the bite is as big as the bark but, you know, he’s there” Hammers said.

While Hammers believes his ego helps, not everyone is as nice about Best's confidence. Many of the other players and the coach of the team believe he overstates his skill.

“It would be between Chapin and Jack if we’re tying it but it’s not Alex if that’s what you’re asking…Alex is not a carry…Alex definitely is not. He thinks he is, but as another tank player, I gotta say it’s my man pyro…Alex has a big forehead, he can’t see it over the monitor. That’s all” Teammates said.

Even with all the friendly banter, many of the players say it feels like a family and they enjoy their time on the team. New member and freshman, Abby Roberts, says she has been welcomed with open arms since she started going to events this semester.

“Everyone here is just like a family. They’re all really close and they’re all very interconnected. It feels very warm and welcoming and everyone here is just awesome and great. I’ve been treated with nothing but kindness” Roberts said.

To read more about the Esports on campus, click here.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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