Ohio Northern University is launching an esports (electronic sports) program in fall 2019. This initiative continues ONU’s emphasis on offering students well-rounded, high-impact learning experiences that allow them to pursue both their professional and personal areas of interest.
Esports will continue that focus in much the same way students have opportunities to participate in co-curricular activities such as intercollegiate and intramural athletics, the arts, and other pursuits that add to the richness of the college experience, expand students’ horizons and provide opportunities to interact with other students who have similar interests.
“We are always looking to add relevant co-curricular activities that extend the college experience beyond the classroom while preparing students for their professional careers by further developing skills that employers value, such as teamwork and leadership,” ONU Vice President for Enrollment Management Bill Eilola said. “We recognized the growing popularity of esports and wanted to provide that opportunity for ONU students.”
Esports is the newest, fastest-growing trend to hit collegiate athletics. Participating students will have the opportunity to compete in games such as “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” while pursuing their college ambitions in more than 70 areas of study. Approximately 22 students will participate on the two teams next fall.
Scholarship opportunities will exist for incoming students who participate on the esports teams.
Troy Chiefari was recently hired to coach the ONU esports teams and is taking a lead role in this initiative, including recruiting both incoming and current students and providing insights for the design of an on-campus esports facility. He also is working with area high schools that are developing their own esports programs.
Chiefari is a former professional player and has coached at both the professional and collegiate levels. Chiefari played “Halo: CE” professionally from 2005-07. He served as the head coach of Tabula Rasa, a “League of Legends” semi-pro team, from 2015-17, and he was the competitive manager for the Esports Club at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).
Chiefari graduated with a computer management degree from SIUE in 2014. He is a seven-year veteran of the Illinois National Guard as an aerospace engineer.
“I am very excited to start the esports program at Ohio Northern,” Chiefari said. “I look forward to working with the young men and women at ONU. My goal is to establish an avenue for young adults to pursue esports while obtaining a college degree for when their competitive playing days end.”
According to an ONU faculty member who is an expert on virtual gaming, esports offers many of the same benefits of traditional sporting pursuits.
“Any multiplayer team-based game has the possibility for building community, and that is true whether the game is played in the physical world or the virtual world,” said Erica Neely, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy. “People bond with their teammates, and they bond with others who have the same interests. This is true whether you are playing basketball or ‘League of Legends.’”
“If you spend a lot of hours playing a game to improve your skill at it, you’re going to be drawn to other people doing the same thing. If you are playing a strategic team-based game, you are going to have to learn to work together with your other teammates. Yes, there is competition among players (as with any competitive game), but there is still a sense that you belong to the same group,” Neely said.
Information on the ONU esports program is available online at www.onu.edu/esports or by calling 419-772-3137.