PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College has tabbed Sarah-Charles “Charlie” Morrow to be the school’s first esports head coach.
“I’m so excited to get started,” Morrow said.
Morrow is charged with building the program from the ground up as the school joins more than 125 college and university programs nationwide participating in competitive video gaming.
Esports, as competitive console and computer gaming is known, is a worldwide series of video game competitions played by professional and collegiate gamers.
The market made nearly $700M in revenue in 2017, with an audience of almost 400 million people, according to Forbes Magazine.
A total of $12,000 in athletic scholarships will be available to students on the team during its inaugural season. Proposed games include Overwatch, League of Legends and Super Smash Bros as well as Hearthstone, Rocket League and Fortnite.
A natural fit
Since 2008, Morrow — a PC Running Start alumnus and Port Angeles High School grad — has competed in regional and national Super Smash Brothers Melee competitions, and names Princess Peach, one of the game’s protagonists, as her main gaming character. Over the last decade she has organized numerous tournaments, handling logistics such as venues and games.
She holds a Master of Arts degree in performance psychology from National University, specifically on mental skills training in esports.
Scouting for talent
Booths at college and community events, campus flyers, social media posts and visits to local high schools to initiate interest are part of Morrow’s plan to reach potential players. There she hopes to gather contact information, take game recommendations, and promote the program to diverse, under-represented populations.
For Morrow, a successful first season includes building a competitive gaming presence on the North Olympic Peninsula, and creating connections with other collegiate programs around the Pacific Northwest.
She would also like to organize free play sessions and a gaming club where she can scout talent and follow up with local tryouts.
“Unlike our other intercollegiate sports teams, Running Start students will be eligible to participate in esports,” said Rick Ross, Associate Dean for Athletics and Student Programs. “The various esports leagues require full-time enrollment at member colleges, but they don’t require those participants to be high school graduates. We’re also hoping to find gamers who maybe have an associate of arts or associate of science degree who might consider coming back to Peninsula to get their bachelors in applied management, or maybe a media or cyber security certificate?”
Building a team
Team members will meet for practice five times per week, which will include scrimmages with team mates and neighboring schools. Athletes will focus on both physical and mental wellness, including interpersonal relationships and hand actions for fast, precise inputs, Morrow said.
Once competition starts, games will be open to public viewing and will be livestreamed on Twitch.
At the end of the first year Morrow says she will evaluate the program’s goals and games, recruit more athletes, and continue education and research.
“I am very interested in, and open to, the idea of having intramural play and summer camps once the program is established,” Morrow said.
More Than Gaming
More than just gaming, esports can be help students grow their STEM, media, and business interests while developing valuable life skills.
“PC athletes participate in community service projects and play a significant role in the development of young players through camps, as well as engagement in elementary, middle school, and high school mentorship programs and school clinics,” Ross said.
According to an article in Forbes magazine, varsity scholarships for esports have been in existence since 2014. Since then, many colleges (including Division 1 schools) have started developing their own esports collegiate teams.
“We look forward to finding corporate sponsorships for our esports scholarships,” Ross said.