Campuses all across the nation are starting gaming clubs and collegiate teams at an increasing rate, laying the foundation for the next generation of esports athletes, coaches, and analysts. We wanted to get an inside look at this newly developing scene and really highlight some of the students leading the way. I recently had the privilege of interviewing the CSULB uLoL team’s captain, Anthony “Fox Main”, as well as their head coach and analyst, Hunter “Shadowfiash”. We discussed what it’s like to be on a collegiate team, how their university and families feel about the scene, and more!
What year/major are you in college, how many years have you been playing League, and what position do you play?
Anthony: I’ve been playing League since 8th grade…so that’s seven years? Yeah, I’ve been playing since the end of Season One. I’m a Junior, 3rd year, in college and I recently switched to Computer Science from Biology. I play Mid and sometimes sub for AD Carry. I was Diamond 2 last season, peaked Diamond I and am currently Diamond V.
Hunter: I’m a fifth-year Econ and Metrics major and I’ve been playing League for about seven and a half, to eight years, I play Top lane. I was Platinum I last season last season peak and ended Plat II. Right now I have promos for Plat IV.
When did you join the team? Did you enter college knowing you wanted to participate in collegiate esports?
Anthony: I joined back in 2015. I first came in during the Week of Welcome looking for the gaming club and when I found them, they were already doing signups for the esports teams so I signed up for the League of Legends one. It was definitely something I sought out for myself, I didn’t hear about it from anyone else.
I got on to the team Sophmore year- I met the League Club president and she told me to try out. I made the team, and I’ve been on it ever since. I think Sophmore year was when I started helping more with tryouts because I was captain at that point.
Hunter: In my case, I looked for the esports club at the beginning of my college career but there was something else I wanted to do at the time. Once that was over, I started networking in the club and found my way to the team.
How big is the gaming club?
Anthony: It’s definitely a really big community, people are just lazy for going to the meetings.
They’re probably busy gaming.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s really deceptive to how many people are actually in the club but there’s a lot of people. At least the first meeting in the fall, the room seats 100 people and it ended up definitely being a fire hazard for how many people were there.
Hunter: We had to switch to a bigger room – I’d say around 150-200 people.
How many players are on the League of Legends team?
Anthony: We originally had five starters and two subs, but uLoL required that we only have one sub so one of our subs moved to positional coach. So overall, we have five starters, one sub, a positional coach, and the main coach.
What does the positional coach do?
Hunter: She specializes in a certain aspect of the game – as a Support main she’s well-versed in the bot lane, so she analyzes their play as far as micro and their mid/late game decisions. She helps them mechanically and discusses builds every patch.
What’s the process like for tryouts? Do you do things like scouting?
Anthony: At Long Beach, we don’t really have scouting, we typically just let people try out. The games depend on how many people are trying out. This year we had about ten applicants so we set up six games – everyone had six games to prove themselves in their selective roles. Whoever performed the most consistently and did the best in terms of in-game play and communication got a spot on the team.
Hunter: We have assistants help us in the voice chat on mute so they can observe the communication because we look for team players, not solo queue heroes.
Do you have to be a certain rank to try out?
Anthony: We have a Diamond V requirement for tryouts so the individual play is relatively skilled. We send those that are lower than D5 to our tier two team, our junior JV, and they try out for that instead.
Hunter: We have two League coordinators that run the club/organization we represent. There’s a staff for the main team and there’s a B-team that didn’t meet the Diamond requirement and still want to participate.
What are your roles and responsibilities on the team?
Anthony: As captain, it’s not that I’m the best player or anything, I’m more of the main organizer – I communicate with all the other teams that we’re facing, setting up good times and stuff. And it’s just you know, it’s not mechanical play-wise, it’s more of a leadership role where I can help them become better players myself, and in-game I definitely shot-call a lot alongside our Jungler.
Hunter: I’m mostly an analyst, I joined as an analyst but as the years went on as part of the organization, I just got moved to coach. I’m responsible for pick/ban phase, deciding what the players should be practicing during their practice times and talking with our positional coach as a liaison. She does more in-depth research with our bot lane and she feeds it back to me so that way I can work on picks/ban, draft, and all that stuff.
What do you find to be most challenging about those roles?
Anthony: As a really competitive person, I think being a player just goes hand-in-hand, you just wanna win. You’re always putting in a lot of practice time to get better at the game but it’s also a double-edged sword because practicing so much, putting so much time into playing not only puts a toll in the amount of time you have…
I wouldn’t say my passion is going down, it’s more so I’m getting burned out from playing at a competitive level for so long. So yeah, I think that’s one of my least favorite parts of being a player captain. Slower and slower, you might lose that push you need to be the best.
Hunter: Being a coach, the worst part is when your players don’t reach success and you see them lose morale. I’ve been coaching for two years now, and there have been situations we really hadn’t made anything out of it because the roster has been unstable or I wasn’t able to earn the players’ respect enough. I’d see people come and go and just like, it’s really hard for me to see that I couldn’t help them succeed in their goals even though that’s my responsibility.
What does a normal week of practice look like?
Anthony: The typical week is just us going to school and since everyone has different schedules now, people will log on by themselves to practice solo queue. We’re all pretty much solo queue fanatics, we all play a lot. But more towards the weekend, we mostly practice. We have a spreadsheet with all the comps we want to run and all the things that we think are good so we practice different team comps to improve our in-game play and synergy. Since this will be the first time we play together as a roster, we’ve been focusing on synergy since the Fall.
Hunter: On my end, when the patch notes come out, the positional coach and I sit down together and go over them one by one, rating every buff on a scale of one through five. We then relay this information to practicing with the team. We’re currently implementing practice with our substitute because he would replace Anthony as Mid on the team. His play style is more aggressive and erratic while Anthony is more controlled and strategic. I think having the two different styles will help our team grow and have more versatility – hopefully, we can get that to work.
How much time does your team commit to League of Legends? How do you manage to balance it with school and everything else in life?
Anthony: Before the semester started, we used to commit three hour practice days, so nine hours during the weekdays and nine more during the weekend. So maybe eighteen hours back then, but now we have a more strict schedule with everyone’s school schedule being super tight – we’re kind of relegated to the weekends now. I’d say about ten hours a week. Currently, since I just switched majors, I feel fine about it.
My schedule isn’t that demanding so I give more of my time to the team, and finding out what we need to do, practicing on my own. I understand that some of my teammates have really demanding schedules so it’s hard for them to find time to practice and play League.
Hunter: On the analysis side, I do statistics as a job, so it’s kind of second nature to me. I’m more passionate about League of Legends than my current job. It’s fun for me, it’s less work more fun. It fits in right into my schedule because I slot it into my leisure time.
How often do you play other schools for uLoL?
Anthony: It’s a weekly thing, starting from last week. The scheduling is six weeks, six rounds and then it goes off into playoffs.
Do you use your B-team for scrimmages? Who do you scrim with?
Hunter: We scrimmed with the B-team once, but they weren’t receptive to it just because of the difference in skill. So we usually scrim other colleges around us, but because of scheduling issues, it’s hard to consistently scrim. We scrim with Fullerton (CSUF) most I think.
How much preparation goes into scouting your opponents versus focusing internally on working on your skills as a team?
Anthony: I think it’s important to do both. We do a combination. Typically, we scout first to see what their strengths are and we definitely play to our strengths. We try to find out what champs we’re good at what champs will work against the comps they run.
In the pro scene, some teams give the players some freedom at draft phase while other coaches tend to make the calls. Who has the final say in picks and bans for your team?
Hunter: I do for the most part, but I’m very lenient when players feel like they have a good reason to pick certain champions. Our AD carry is a Draven main and obviously, Draven in competitive isn’t super popular but in our case, sometimes he has a better understanding of why certain matchups work, and I put enough trust in my players to agree with them.
Do you feel like your university supports you? Are they trying to embrace esports?
Hunter: No…I talked to some of the heads of the sports department as an esports club representing the club, and some of them still don’t understand esports and why we exist. Some of them still joke about us. They don’t have a personal investment in it but I think the school sees a lucrative investment so they’re giving us a shot.
Anthony: For the past few years, we haven’t been considered an actual sport. We were placed as “extracurricular activities” as a club. But this year, I think it’s the first year we’re being recognized as a sport. We’re officially recognized but there’s still a huge consensus that gaming is a waste of time.
What’s your family’s take on what you do?
Anthony: My mom isn’t so fond of me playing so many games. It’s because I haven’t really done anything “worthwhile” – I haven’t really brought home any huge tournament winnings or anything like that. My dad’s definitely more knowledgeable, he knows about esports and he’s open to it, pretty open to it. He sees why I take a liking to esports because I enjoy my time and my mom just doesn’t see that.
Hunter: It took me about three years to convince my parents that esports was something that I wanted to pursue as a career path. I’m on set to hopefully enter the esports world after I finish college but initially, I came in as an engineer. They were super proud but then when I told them like hey, I don’t have a passion for this, I have a passion for competitive video gaming, they didn’t receive it that well at all.
It took time and it took the scene developing and me showing them proof of how much money is in the scene – because that’s pretty much the main factor for their decision, that I could find a stable job and have a moderate to higher income and be set for life. That’s what they’re more concerned about outside of just video games.
What do you think the scene will be like in the future, say, in five years?
Anthony: I think League of Legends will still be a really big game in five years. The game is always changing, they’re always adding champions and changing old ones. I think Riot does a good job of keeping things up to date and fresh and new, so there’s always an appeal and I don’t think the scene will diminish – if anything it’ll grow bigger.
Hunter: I think collegiate esports is going to be a huge thing because of the amount of investment that’s currently going into it and how traditional professional sports teams are taking notice of that. In terms of pro esports in general, I think it depends whether the current players transition well to post-retirement life. Because if they don’t set a good example of a retired player, things go bad, people might have issues about esports in general.
Because obviously, an esports career is usually short compared to other sports, five years is a long time. So if they develop a player’s union finally, and maybe have better representation for players or retired players, but until the logistics of retirement get solved, esports might be too risky for some people to consider because of the lack of job security. You can always be replaced by younger talent and things like that.
If those things do fall into place, do you think League of Legends or esports, in general, would be a viable career path?
Anthony: I think we’re making a slow transition with all these scholarships and funding toward esports. We’re making a transition for a viable career path, but like Hunter said, I think it really depends on the retirement aspect of it, how set they are for after they’re done with esports. You know, because esports careers tend to be really short because there’s always better players coming in and out. I think it’s definitely focused on the retirement aspect because they want to have a stable lifestyle after their careers, just like any other athlete.
Hunter: I also have like an addition to that. Until the perceived notion that video games are a “bad thing” goes away, you won’t have as big of an influence for esports as traditional sports – because from the ground up, traditional American parents want their children to be involved and be active. But esports is the opposite of that. You’re mentally active but you’re not physically moving and some parents have a negative connotation regarding video games because of that. It just might dissuade people from pursuing esports if their parents don’t have an open mind about it.
Besides being a player, what role would you want if you could have an esports job? And which team if you could choose any?
Anthony: Cloud9 for sure. Outside of being a player, I’d probably want to be a coach. I’ve talked to Hunter about it, I’m considering for my last year, my senior year of college, to step back from the player role and just become a coach. I feel like I’ve been on the team for a long time and it’s really demanding and I have new classes coming up…so yeah, we’ll decide when we get closer but I’d definitely become like a coach or like Hunter’s position right now.
Hunter: I’d like to be part of C9 too but last year I got a job offer from Detonation Focus me in Japan but I didn’t take it so I could finish college. I sort of regret it, but I would love to be part of anything whether it’s a startup or a team in general because I feel like whether they can make me feel like home, or if I can make myself at home in a esports team, just being there is just step one for me.
With the scene being so new, and you guys sort of being at the forefront paving the way, who do you look up to? Where do you find mentors for improving in what you do?
Anthony: We definitely look at other schools that are really pushing the esports envelope. Like UCI obviously, we definitely look to them in terms of expanding our club and improving the school-wide knowledge that we exist. As a player, I definitely look up to players like Bjergsen because he’s been in the competitive scene for so long that it makes sense to imitate their ways to be better at the game.
Hunter: From a coaching perspective, I look more up to Hearthstone coaches than I do for League of Legends coaches because Hearthstone coaches are more analytical about the small things and they’re more independent. I don’t have a support staff other than one person on my team to rely on. I like the Tempo Storm coaches, like Ant in particular. He’s a player too, but he does coaching as well.
I just like the style of content he puts out to help newer players and professional players figure out why things are good. He gets it across in an efficient manner and has their respect. I don’t look up to just him but he’s the best example I can give right now.
Lastly, if you could create a scholarship for a collegiate League of Legends player, what would be your criteria?
Anthony: There would definitely be a GPA requirement because there’s currently a requirement to play at our school. I think the uLoL requirement says you have to have a 2.5 or above to maintain your spot on the roster. They can check that at any time upon asking.
Hunter: I’d also include a time contract with the scholarship. It would be on a person to person basis. Say a person’s major isn’t Math but something more like Communication or Business, they have more leeway because they’re classes aren’t as rigorous so they can dedicate more time to League of Legends and practice.
I think having that time commitment along with the scholarship would formulate the scholarship as more like a part-time job so something that they feel responsible for needing to do because it associates with them earning money. If you implement that sort of thing along with a GPA requirement, then I think it’s a sound system because both ends get what they want.
Thanks for reading everyone! We hope you enjoyed our interview with the CSULB collegiate team for League of Legends. To learn more, you can find them at the CSULB Esports Association Facebook