College Hires Esports Head Coach
Published on 23 March 2020
As St. Louis College of Pharmacy prepares to launch its new esports program this fall, it has announced that Aaron Kapiko has joined the Department of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation as the head coach of esports. Kapiko brings a wealth of professional gaming and coaching experience to his new role.
“Professional esports is extremely popular in the gaming world, but it’s a relatively new sport for college students,” Kapiko explained. “Many larger universities don’t have college-sponsored esports programs, so forming a team here gives us a competitive edge that will attract new students and give current students unique opportunities to get involved in this fun and exciting sport.”
Kapiko originally hails from Wilmington, North Carolina and graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree.
He began playing online games competitively as a young teenager, and while in college, he was recruited to play the digital collectible card game Hearthstone professionally. Throughout college, he played Hearthstone and other online games in front of thousands of spectators around the world.
During college, Kapiko also coached wrestling at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, leading several state champions and college scholarship athletes and guiding the team to achieve their most successful seasons in the school’s history.
“Coach Kapiko’s history of success in esports and coaching makes him the ideal person to direct our first official esports program,” explained Jill Harter, director of athletics, fitness and recreation. “We’re excited to welcome him to the Eutectics family as we continue to expand athletic opportunities for our students.”
While esports is part of the College’s athletics program, Kapiko explained that it is organized differently than traditional college athletics. Whereas a traditional team would only expect to play against other teams in their region and division, esports is a wide-open field in which any school can play against another, remotely or in person.
The College’s team is part of the National Association for Collegiate Esports (NACE), a nonprofit membership organization created to develop the structure and tools needed to advance collegiate esports in the varsity space. As the only existing association of varsity esports programs at colleges and universities nationwide, NACE includes over 170 member schools and 5,000 competitors across the U.S.
“What I like about the esports system is that a small school like ours can go up against big schools with Division 1 NCAA athletes,” Kapiko explained. “Our esports students will get the opportunity to meet and play against students from schools all across the country, big or small that are part of NACE, and we have a chance to beat them if we have the strongest team.”
Most of the College’s games will be played remotely in the new esports facility currently under construction on the first floor of Jones Hall. The new space includes a gaming arena with 30 dedicated computers, an exhibition area with large screen televisions for playing console games, practice rooms, office space and vending machines.
In the custom-built space, students will be able to watch games in person or even help the team practice by playing against them during training sessions. The space will be open for public viewing at an open house later this spring, and regular practices and open hours will begin during the fall 2020 semester.
Kapiko notes there are a range of opportunities for current students to get involved in esports at the varsity level and beyond.
“In my first week, I was contacted by students who are excited to get involved in the program,” Kapiko explained. “Our current students will be eligible to try out for the varsity team, the academy team or even play at the club level. I’m also looking for students to help analyze game statistics, assist during the tournaments or even just come out and support the team.”
As he continues to build the College’s esports team, Kapiko says he is looking for students with a strong individual and group gaming background.
“One great thing about esports is how open-ended and grassroots-oriented it is,” Kapiko explained. “Although we’re recruiting for specific games, we’re also looking to create teams for a variety of games based on student interest. I want players who are strong, individually, but mostly I want people who can work well as a team.”
To learn more about esports and other athletics programs at the College, visit eutecticsports.com.
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