Move over, Nick Saban. The new college coaching wave could be esports.
There are now more than 50 recognized varsity esports programs at American colleges. Such teams spring up constantly these days, as was the case with South Carolina's Coker College, a small liberal arts school with a student body between 1,000 and 2,000.
In this sense, Joseph Rudy is at the forefront of an experiment, managing a varsity esports team in its very first year of existence. The job takes coaching and gaming know-how, yes, but it also requires a great deal of outreach and organization, making sure Coker's program is connected with others around the nation through NACE, the governing body for college esports. In the interview below, we speak with Rudy about his new position and how he quickly found his way from college gamer to the adult leader at a different school.
Find Your Grind: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to directing a college esports squad, Joseph.
Joseph Rudy: Growing up, I always played a lot of video games and competed in sports. When I found out about esports in college, it was the perfect combination. I discovered the esports club during my freshman year in 2011, and I have been a part of the club ever since. I started helping out with broadcasting whenever we held tournaments, and I quickly became the main caster at the club. During my final year, I became the the president of the club where I created the invitational that it still running.
We invited other schools to come and compete against Penn State teams, and we collaborated with the College of Communications. Now, I am the Director of Esports at Coker College as we are getting ready for our first year as a program.
FYG: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?
JR: My job is a mix of coaching, recruiting, event managing, and everything else the program needs.
FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?
JR: You would need a little bit of everything in order to do my job. I got this experience by being involved with my college club. At one point or another, I had to do everything that was needed to run an event.
FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?
JR: There are many opportunities in esports from playing, casting, event managing, coaching, etc. I would recommend getting involved in your high school or college team/club. If there isn't one currently, then create one. If you are out of school or hitting roadblocks, there are plenty of organizations online looking for help.
FYG: What kind of lifestyle does your career allow you to live? What sort of salary and work environment can people typically expect from a position or field like yours?
JR: The salary is fairly lower than if I just got a standard job within my field (mathematics), but this job allows me to travel quite a bit and be involved in something I love. Even though it is fairly low, I am not struggling by any means and live comfortably.
FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?
JR: Being well organized helps quite a bit, plus being able to put yourself out there and find players to recruit. It is a lot of managing the teams and events that we run.
FYG: What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind? Why is it important?
JR: Find something that you can do over and over and never get tired.
Chance Solem-Pfeifer is an editor, arts journalist, and radio/podcast host based out of Portland, Oregon.