University to offer minor in esports coaching beginning in the fall

Growing popularity of competitive sport, university’s established varsity team help lead to first such program in state
​Jerry Poling | April 3, 2023

UW-Stout is taking the lead again in the esports field in Wisconsin.

After becoming the first UW System school to offer an interscholastic esports — competitive video game — team in 2020, the university will be the first to offer an esports coaching minor, beginning in fall 2023.

The minor could appeal to students majoring in game design and development-art, animation and digital media, members of the Blue Devil esports team and others with an interest in what has become a $2 billion a year worldwide industry.

UW-Stout esports team players compete from their new arena in Heritage Hall. The arena includes new computers, monitors and chairs that are standard in competitive gaming.
UW-Stout esports team players compete from their new arena in Heritage Hall. The arena includes new computers, monitors and chairs that are standard in competitive gaming. / UW-Stout

From game design to competing to coaching, UW-Stout provides three aspects of esports interaction for students.

“Esports obviously is growing. There’s a lot of interest. Some students have already expressed an interest in this,” said Assistant Professor Mike Bird, who has helped develop the minor and teaches in the university’s health, wellness and fitness program.

UW-Stout already offers a coaching minor. The separate esports minor will use the same curriculum except for three courses in the esports track: Introduction to Game Design, Psychology of Video Games and Coaching Esports. Only the coaching course will have to be developed; the other two already exist as foundation courses within the game design program.

Mike Bird, UW-Stout assistant professor of health, wellness and fitness
Mike Bird, UW-Stout assistant professor of health, wellness and fitness / UW-Stout

The coaching minor will include a practicum, requiring students to complete a short-term coaching experience at some level of organized athletics. UW-Stout esports minors, for example, could connect with a high school, university or professional team for their practicum.

Similarities exist with coaching any team, Bird said, but with esports there are obvious differences because of the computer technology, digital competition environment and various games or leagues in which teams compete.

The Blue Devil esports team is in its third varsity season and has about 40 players and student coaches. The university competes in five games, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. and Valorant, some in the fall and some in the spring.

Also, junior varsity teams have been added in Overwatch, Rocket League and Valorant, said Travis Miller, esports director for Blue Devil Athletics.
 

Stout Esports

UW-Stout is piloting an Esports program in fall 2022. Learn more about the program or receive updates as the program grows.
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UW-Stout plays teams across the country. Matches can be individual or three-on-three and typically are contested remotely.

The Blue Devils play from an esports arena in Heritage Hall. A production lab recently was added next to the arena, and more matches will be streamed starting this spring.

“The esports component continues to grow in popularity, whether it’s in middle school, high school or college teams,” Bird said. “It’s not going away.”

The Blue Devils belong to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which has more than 170 member schools representing more than 5,000 student athletes.

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