There’s a new competitive team on the Newman campus and it’s capitalizing on a growing, popular sports trend.
Esports is Newman’s 20th sport offering across NCAA Division II and club levels. The Jets will compete in the Rocket League on PC and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch.
The addition of esports along with new academic programs in digital design and computer science opens up new student recruitment opportunities, officials said. Newman is the 10th Kansas college to add esports and has joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports.
Kurt McDonald, who is no stranger to Kansas or the competitive esports scene, is the new program’s head coach. McDonald, a sociology professor and business consultant with a doctorate in strategic leadership, holds degrees from Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, and has competed in esports, playing Halo and the Street Fighter series.
“I love higher education and I love video games,” McDonald said, when his hiring was announced in June. “I’ve written several journal articles on biblical leadership so coaching at a Christian institution helps me combine my professional self and my spiritual self.”
McDonald’s initial goals are to build a roster of up to 15 players for the inaugural season and then add more spots and more games for future seasons. He’s also exploring partnerships with Wichita State University, which also has an esports program — and possibly some “friendly rivalry,” he said. Engaging in some on-site competition among different teams is also being looked at.
The plethora of electronic games means esports coaches have to take a different approach to coaching than those in traditional sports.
“Typically, esports coaches provide more program manager or leadership styles versus being an expert in every game because it takes years to become good at any game, just like real sports,” McDonald said.
While gym or weight room workouts aren’t a major part of an esports program, McDonald said it’s rare to
find a lazy competitive gamer. A gamer needs to be able to react and respond quickly, which is why the team’s training will include daily exercise “to keep that blood flow and stay hydrated.”
“It is an athletic sport, and we are trying to win. It takes an average of 7,000 to 10,000 hours to even get to the level where you can compete,’ he said.
McDonald said the team will compete in nonviolent games that don’t include dismemberment or realistic violence.