New lab for esports athletic team opens in CALT


Dominic Salacki

AACC alum Conway Johnson, who created the student ESports Club in 2014, is the new head coach of an athletic esports team set to start competing in the spring. Shown, Johnson checks out a new esports lab in CALT where the team will practice and compete.

Dominic Salacki, Editor-in-Chief

AACC Athletics has opened a lab in the CALT building on West Campus where players on a new esports team can practice and compete in tournaments once the squad is formed.

Athletics hired AACC alumnus Conway Johnson, who helped start a student ESports Club in 2014, to lead the athletic team as head coach. Johnson said competition tentatively will begin in the spring semester.

“Ideally, the sooner the better,” Johnson, who graduated in 2015, said.

“At the end of the day, my goal is to get as many people involved as possible,” Johnson said. “It’s not just ‘the more the merrier,’ but ‘the more, the more effective.’”

Johnson said the varsity team, which will be part of AACC Athletics and separate from the student club, will compete in National Junior College Athletic Association Esports, with access to the video games Rocket League, Overwatch and League of Legends.

“Something I personally excel at is coaching that is more psychologically oriented, as well as the physical, that talks about how to handle your mentality, both in game and when you’re practicing long term,” Johnson said. “I want to be able to reach out and share that with as many people as possible that we can have involved.”

Athletics Director Duane Herr said he is “excited” about the “tremendous” esports lab and about the new team, which is forming now.

“I’m beyond happy with how the [esports lab] turned out,” Herr said. “I think the project managers” and “technical computer gurus on campus that were involved” helped a great deal.

Computer science student John Kenny tries out the equipment in a new esports lab in CALT. Kenny says he hopes to play on the new athletic esports team. (Dominic Salacki)

John Kenny, a first-year computer science student, attended an open house for the esports lab before Thanksgiving and said he hopes to join the team.

“Even if I’m not playing competitively, just being here in the spirit is fun because it’s a fun environment,” Kenny said.

Kenny played as a forward for AACC’s men’s soccer team and said he likes playing video games with friends, “making memories” in the process.

“One-player games are just playing with random people, but when you play with people that you get to know, it’s a lot more fun,” Kenny said.

Kenny said he hopes to “play a big role” in the athletic esports team because of his background in computers. He said he built his own PC.

Daniel Mason, president of the student ESports Club, said the athletic team “never would’ve happened” if Johnson had not created the club seven years ago.

Herr agreed that Johnson’s “connections with the ESports Club, and their ability to have a successful and growing club over time, definitely made this an easy decision to make.”

According to Herr, students who belong to the club have expressed interest in joining the team.

Mason, a second-year game development student, said he and Johnson are “mainly working together by coordinating directly with the ESports Club to [recruit and] bring awareness to the esports athletics division.”

Johnson said an interest meeting in December will help  spread information about how players can join the athletic team. Potential players can fill out the program questionnaire to sign up.

“I think we really created something that is going to be around and be successful, and that’s really exciting to watch,” Herr said.