From a trial season testing the waters to the opening of a high-tech gaming studio, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks have upped the ante when it comes to esports over the past year.
On Tuesday, the team unveiled a new, state-of-the-art studio where it will practice and compete during the Eastern College Athletics Conference season starting Jan. 31.
The on-campus studio includes a dozen gaming computers from Alienware, headsets and quality gaming chairs.
“The room is just insane,” said student athlete Bradley Pike. “These computers… I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
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Three teams of athletes compete in either League of Legends, Valorant, or Rocket League.
Pike, who got his start in the world of esports in high school, is now a team captain playing Valorant after receiving a scholarship to the college.
“It all started with like Fortnite when I was just in high school, and I decided I was going to start a team,” he explained. “We worked together and built a whole esports team there and we won nationals, so that’s how I kind of ended up here.”
Todd Caughlin, manager of athletics and recreation at the college, said the addition of esports to the school’s athletics programming occurred over the summer of 2022.
“We actually have taken the approach right from the get-go that we are not treating them as a special sport or a different sport (just because) they are not a ‘traditional’ sport,” he explained.
“They are student athletes, they are Kodiaks.”
According to Justin Garrick, who was brought on to coach the teams this year, close to 30 students showed up for recent tryouts — a number he wasn’t expecting.
“I had no idea there was going to be that many. I expected maybe ten,” he said.
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“To have the turnout, to have so many people is really cool. I walked in the room and I was shocked because every station was filled and there was people standing alongside all the walls.”
Adra Schoenne, one of the only female esport athletes at the college, said despite having to deal with some sexist remarks in the gaming world, she has pushed through and is looking forward to using the new space this season.
“I’m pretty excited to be here, and be a part of the team and putting my input and everything in,” she said.
According to CK Dhaliwal, the business development and academics manager at the Alberta Esports Association, they’re noticing an uptick in interest across the province among K-12 schools.
The non-profit’s goal is to help develop esports.
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“I get probably one to three requests per week from teachers across Alberta, mentioning ‘hey, we want to get an e-sports program established, what does that look like? How do we get started?’,” he explained.
“What I’m looking at now is determining,= how do we position Alberta to be one of those leading provinces to guide and show other provinces how this is done?”
The Alberta Esports EXPO will be happening on Feb. 18-19 in Edmonton and is free to attend.
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