While Fresno State sports are in limbo, esports remains

Fresno State’s "Overwatch" team outside a Dave and Busters during a team outing. (Courtesy Fresno State "Overwatch" Team)

Although a variety of sports have been postponed due to COVID-19, it seems esports at Fresno State will continue to move forward.

Tommy Cherta Lee, head coach of the varsity “League of Legends” team, said the team participate in the Harrisburg University Esports Invitational on Sept. 19-20. 

Last season his team went 0-10, recently lost seven players but ultimately gained, as Lee put it, three high-quality players in return.  

Noah Martinez, returning “League of Legends” team captain and business major at Fresno State, looks forward to building relationships with his team and is excited for what’s to come. 

“The team is looking pretty good, actually, we haven’t hit practice really hard yet,” Martinez said. “We’ve practiced for about a week or two now and it’s not even like really hard practice, it’s more so just getting used to each other; just still trying to have fun; trying to grow our synergy together. But it’s definitely been fun, and I’m really excited for the season.” 

While the team will be participating, it has struggled with the pandemic.  

“A lot of student-athletes are struggling. I wouldn’t say they’re like, struggling very badly, mentally, but they’re definitely struggling mentally,” Lee said. “[I’m] trying to be there for them and letting them know that I’m a resource, that Fresno State has resources and just really letting them know that it’s going to be difficult.” 

“Overwatch”, the university’s varsity group, has also experienced a few bumps in the road. 

“The only downside is really not being able to play in the esports room, I felt like they were drastically improving in the esports room,” said “Overwatch” varsity coach Josh Tolbert. 

Tolbert said the players “have a little bit more leeway to mess around sometimes or have the want to get around because they’re all friends and the whole reason there is to enjoy themselves. Sometimes they enjoy themselves a little too much. It’s just that freedom of not being directly in front of the coach.”

“Overwatch” at Fresno State is divided into three teams: A, B, and C, all of whom will play sometime in the near future, Tolbert said.

“A will be partaking in a varsity season,” Tolbert said. “[Tespa, an organization which hosts a variety of esports tournaments for college athletes,] haven’t released information on that. It will be something of a weekly season with a playoff format. B and C will go through a 512 team single [elimination] playoff for the first split. The second split might consist of a weekly format as well, I’m not sure. They haven’t released that either.”

While focusing on school and athletics can be difficult for some, Tolbert said his “Overwatch” team is doing very well in terms of academics. 

“Man, there’s a lot of students who have upped their GPA, our overall GPA is looking fantastic. There’s probably about four to five students that are over 3.5,” Tolbert said. “Everybody that was in any type of situation to be taken off the team for GPA issues has gone up an average about … at least point five in GPA.”

Tolbert also mentioned that “Overwatch” and esports at Fresno State have kept some of his players invested in their college careers, resulting in them continuing their respective studies.  

“There are students who said ‘If esports didn’t come out, I don’t know if I would have continued my college career,’” Tolbert said. “So, that was very influential for them to stay in school and continue on with esports in general.”

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