Earlier this spring, the New York Tech CyBears eSports team had been looking forward to a trip to Arkansas for its first joint eSports conference with counterparts at Arkansas State University. And while COVID-19-related travel restrictions prevented them from traveling, it didn’t stop the students from connecting virtually to enjoy a day of learning, collaboration, and competition.
On Saturday, April 18, New York Tech and Arkansas State kicked off the online events of the day with a conference featuring a panel of eSports experts, including:
- Hallie Zwibel, D.O., director of the Center for eSports Medicine at New York Institute of Technology and one of the nation’s leading experts in eSports medicine, who provided valuable information regarding eSport athletes’ health and wellness.
- Victoria Horsley, former marketing director for the National Association of Collegiate Esports and current chief revenue officer for Midwest Esports, who spoke about how her passion for eSports is driven by the opportunities it provides and the inclusivity it offers students from a wide variety of backgrounds.
- David Chen, a venture capitalist, eSports enthusiast and prominent investor in FaZe Clan, one of the world's largest eSports organizations, who discussed the connections he’s made through eSports and spoke about his vision of where eSports is headed.
Both universities used the day to provide potential players and supporters with information about their programs and eSports in general. Following the speaker panel, CyBears Coach Elieser Duran and Red Wolves Coach Stephanie Lott hosted a Q&A session to explain how their respective teams are set up, how tryouts are conducted, and their approach to coaching and leading their students. Both coaches gave virtual tours of the eSports facilities on their campuses.
The eSports conference was available to the public, and more than 300 unique viewers watched at least a portion of the event on Twitch and/or YouTube. The recorded content remains available on both sites.
The afternoon featured three rounds of competition as the CyBears and Red Wolves squared off in best-of-three matches in League of Legends and Fortnite and a best-of-five Overwatch contest.
“The entire event was a great experience for everyone involved,” Duran said. “The panelists were really good. Both Stephanie and I got to share information about our programs, and the games were competitive and enjoyable. I’m really glad we were able to make it happen, despite the circumstances.”
Lott echoes Duran’s positive takeaways: “We were able to showcase the growth our programs have experienced in a very short time, and to have the caliber of speakers we did, that speaks volumes to where both of our programs are,” Lott said. “Not too many universities have partnerships like ours that offer this kind of collaboration, so we’re fortunate to be able to take advantage of it.”
In 2016, New York Institute of Technology opened an additional location of its osteopathic medical school on the Arkansas State campus, which established a unique relationship between the schools. When Arkansas State began its efforts to create an eSports program, they invited Bhavesh Joshi, D.O., to support the team’s medical activities. Joshi is an assistant professor at NYITCOM-Jonesboro and serves as the team physician for A-State athletics. A-State has also consulted regularly with Duran, who Lott cited as a key asset for A-State’s program.
“He’s done some amazing things with the New York Tech program, as you can see by the conference titles they’ve won,” Lott said. “We didn’t have to go into it blindly when we started our program. He was able to share about some of the hurdles they encountered and how they navigated them. Now, we can work together to elevate our programs separately and give each other the spotlight.”
By Casey Pearce