Barry University’s esports program creates new generation of student athletes

MIAMI SHORES, FLA. (WSVN) - A relatively new sport at a South Florida college is attracting students looking to up their game. No balls or courts are needed, but the athletes are just as determined to win.

Lightning-quick fingers, sharp minds, and killer instincts — these are just some of the traits the elite student athletes possess that make up the Barry Buccaneers Esports team.

“A lot of people get shocked about it, honestly,” said Desirre Pierce, a sophomore from New Orleans. “Whenever I go, ‘Oh yeah, you can get a scholarship for playing video games,’ they’re like, ‘That’s not a natural sport,’ and I said, ‘It gets as much attention as normal sports do.'”

In addition to being one of 175 higher learning institutions across the country, Barry University is also a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

“The interest in the industry is only growing more and more, and the intensity of the most interested people has only been increasing exponentially,” said Lance Hotchkiss, Barry University Esports professor. “The people that are super die-hard fans are to the death.”

Micah Williams, a computer science major, specializes in the video game “League of Legends.”

The junior gamer claims he is prepared to do whatever it takes to stay on top of his game.

“It’s a lot of muscle memory,” he said. “Once you play something a thousand times, you get to do it without even looking. Like, I’m at the point where I feel like I can look away and still be able to play a decent game, for some games.”

The Barry gamers eat, sleep, and drink video games. The million-dollar question: Are these gamers athletes?

“I’ve put countless hours in being the best that I can be,” said freshman James Amokwawa. “We are athletes. We may be different from all the rest who, you know, use their physical strength, but there’s more than being a human being than human strength.”

Juggling both their classwork and practice, coach Hotchkiss believes his competitors are like any other typical student athlete.

“Three to four hours of week exercise, three times of week practice, three to fours hours of reviews,” he said.

They practice this often since the esports competitions are just as fierce as traditional sports.

“You have to have incredibly quick decision making and strong instincts,” Hotchkiss said. “Your mind has to be able to override your instincts when it’s appropriate. You have to have a very in-depth knowledge of the game. You’re thinking 20 minutes in advance, you’re thinking 20 moves ahead.”

That’s probably why, since 2018, close to $20 million in esports scholarships have been dished out!

“When I went to my old boss, I used to work in retail, I was like, ‘Hey, I’m getting a scholarship,” said Williams, “and when I told her the numbers, she was like, ‘What?'”

“Being part of the esports program, I think it can really get me a job in this profession,” said Amokwawa. “Honestly, I can’t really see myself doing something else.”

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