Esports have been a part of the Florida Southern College Athletic department since the beginning of the program in 2017. Because of their digital nature however, esports are quite different from the other athletic programs.
“I’d say we don’t really fit the word ‘athletics’ because esports is anything but athletic, but at the same time there are some similarities,” Rocket League team member Isaac Garay said.
Despite this difference in athleticism, there are some areas of overlap between esports and traditional sports, mainly the ways that tournaments, practices and competitions are run.
“Every other sport has a physical aspect while esports doesn’t, but both sides have tournaments, practices, teamwork and things of that nature,” Garay said.
Additionally the amount of support offered by teammates is very similar.
“Every athletics team is part of SAAC, which connects a lot of the athletes together,” Overwatch team captain Anna Patterson said. “We are also connected in ways that we are all encouraged to support one another at games. Everyone is active with each other on social media in support.”
Those in the esports program have varying opinions about their position within athletics with some feeling like outsiders to the department.
“We’re the black sheep among athletics, I’m pretty sure most athletes don’t even know or don’t care that esports exist,” League of Legends team member Dylan Parramore said. “The only connection most of us have with the rest of athletics depends on whether or not we do another sport, so most of us don’t really interact with athletics that much.”
“I feel like esports isn’t actually something ‘within’ athletics, it’s kinda put there because we compete with other schools the same way sports and what not,” Rocket League team member Casey Freudenthal said. “It’s the closest thing that it fits to be put into basically.”
Others view it as a positive thing despite their differences, as it is a chance to prove the importance of esports and appeal to a different demographic of students.
“Among athletics I would definitely say that we are newer and earning our place in a way,” Patterson said. “I think a lot of people don’t really see esports as a sport or like we have a spot among athletics, so we are really just working on showing them that we do belong with everyone else.”
As the esports program continues to develop its place within athletics will become more defined, but for now those on the various esports teams are embracing both the challenges and benefits of their unique sport.
“I think we are set apart in the way that we may appeal to people wanting to come to the school and that we have to appeal to an entirely different population,” Patterson said. “We can’t try to reach people in the conventional ways that regular sports teams do, so we have to be creative with streams and graphics and events.”