The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV Premier Teams bring a new level to Esports club

GVL | Alena Visnovsky

In September the Grand Valley State University Esports club launched three premier teams to build on their club team program. These groups include a Rocket League Team, a Valorant Team and a Valorant Game Changers Team. This was made possible through a partnership with Recreation and Wellness on campus, which provided the Esports club with the base funding. 

The premier teams are similar to a varsity athletics team, and the Esports club hired three new coaches to help lead these teams as they train and compete with other schools at the collegiate level. 

“We can’t offer scholarships, but we have benefits in funding for travel and jerseys and paid coaches,” said Cameron Houtman, a senior and the president of the GVSU Esports club. “It’s given us a backbone to start an actual esports program, rather than a club. We can run both simultaneously, but we can branch out and build (the club) more into what most other colleges have.”

Houtman, who has been competing with the Esports club for two years now, is a big advocate for students who are interested in joining the esports scene at GVSU. 

“If you’re gonna do it at your house in your room by yourself anyways, you might as well meet people who play the same game and have similar interests,”  Houtman said.

The Esports club has seen a huge boost in participation since the main facility, located on the bottom level of Kirkhof Center, opened in 2021. The center began with drop-in gaming hours. Over the past two years, the Esports club has expanded to include 12 club teams that compete each week, which equals out to roughly 90 students. The club overall has a greater audience of over 500 students who participate in gaming at the center. 

Riley Long, the Esports coordinator and assistant director, has been with the team for about a year. So far, his main focus has been on getting the initial premier teams off the ground, which he was thrilled to do earlier this year. 

“Ultimately, these premier teams are teams that are the best in our program and are competing in the most popular game titles,” Long said. “They’re taking it more seriously than a typical club athlete would.”  

Each premiere team holds roughly three practices a week and plays one to two matches on top of that during the week. Because of this, premiere team members often dedicate as much time as traditional athletes might, with a schedule of 10 to 20 hours per week spent on training or team-related work activities.

While the club only has three premier teams at the moment, the goal is to eventually expand what games they offer premier teams. Alex Florian, a junior who has been a part of the Esports club for a year and a half, tried out for the Rocket League team in the hope he would get to play with the “best of the best.” Florian not only made the team, but became the team captain. As captain, his responsibilities include working with other schools, such as Central Michigan University or Michigan State University, to set up scrimmages.

Overall, Florian said he has thoroughly enjoyed his experience with the premier leagues so far, and has found he’s benefited greatly from the new resources available to him and his teammates, especially getting to work with his coach.

“I love playing competitively. Now that we have a coach, I think that was a massive improvement,” Florian said. “You can critique your teammates, you can critique yourself, but when you have someone who you know has your best interests in mind, it makes it so much easier to improve. You know he’s not just saying it as a player, he’s saying it as a coach.”

Florian hopes that the number of people interested in trying out for the Esports program at GVSU will increase, even though a formal recruitment process does not yet exist. 

“We’re gonna do some active recruiting, so that we can continue to recruit some of the best talent within the state,” Long said.

The GVSU premier teams currently hold a spot in the top 25 national rankings for one of the club’s Rocket League teams and the Valorant team falls in the top 50 nationwide.

Houtman’s main focus is the success of the club and its ability to connect with the greater Esports community. For instance, Houtman was at Ferris State University along with the Esports club teams this past Friday for the rivals’ “Anchor-Bone” competition. He looks forward to matchups with FSU in the future and finding ways to expand the reach of the club to other college campuses. 

“I want to start outreaching more to other colleges that don’t have the same kind of benefits as us and start using the facilities and benefits we have (here) to host events,” Houtman said. “This would also give us the ability to hopefully then push to build a bigger facility for us because we’re starting to outgrow this one.”

Sydney Lim, a member of the Valorant Game Changers Premier Team, is greatly looking forward to this season. While she’s been playing with the Esports club for over a year, this is her first chance to be on a competitive team. She said she is thrilled about being part of the positive changes being made to the Esports club and hopes it can inspire people to get involved with extracurriculars. 

“I think showing the student body that there’s competitiveness in that space and not just fun games to play with their friends gives them an opportunity to see something that they might not have realized existed,” Lim said.

Long said Esports club is in the process of launching a broadcast studio toward the end of this fall semester or the beginning of the winter 2024 semester. The broadcast studio would be a space where students could learn how to produce an Esports production and be a personality on-camera. The studio would also allow the Esports club to begin broadcasting the club’s weekly matches. 

Long hopes this will turn some heads on campus and spread the word about Esports at GVSU. 

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