April 27, 2020
Without question the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has had a far-reaching impact. Collegiate athletics, just like every other level of sports, has been altered like never before. Waubonsee Community College's spring sports teams were affected just like everyone else. The Chiefs' softball team had just finished playing two games on day one of their annual Spring Trip to Florida when they were informed that the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) had shut down the season and that they needed to return home. Waubonsee's baseball team, under the direction of new head coach Rodney Lopez had played just two games before the lockdown began. And new men's tennis head coach Warren Harris had barely begun team practices before the season was cancelled prior to it ever getting started.
However, one Waubonsee team was able to finish their spring season, the Chiefs' brand new Esports team. Without access to the Chiefs' new state-of-the-art Esport Arena on the Sugar Grove campus, the internet and live streaming still allowed Waubonsee's newest team to continue to compete through the first few weeks of the lockdown. "Fortunately everyone on my team has all the necessary equipment at home, so we got all the way through," explained head coach Jarod Ericksen. "Everyone stayed active, practicing from home as well as playing our last few matches from home. Once the campus was shut down, I stayed in contact with everyone through (the communication app) Discord, so we didn't have many issues," stated Ericksen.
Esports has become huge among a generation of video gamers, with professional leagues and tournaments, drawing millions of spectators to major events. Waubonsee's Esports team competed primarily in the League of Legends (LOL) during this start-up phase of the program, while continuing to practice for Rocket League competitions in the future. League of Legends is a cooperative strategy game in which two 5-player teams compete to destroy the other team's Nexus Crystal located in their team's base. The fast paced Rocket League consists of two 3-player teams each working together to knock the ball into the opposing team's goal over a pair of non-stop 5-minute periods, played in an enclosed area with no out of bounds.
The Chiefs' varsity squad went 3-7 overall in their LOL matches, losing in their qualifying match to the University of Chicago, missing out on the playoffs. Waubonsee's junior varsity team did qualify for the post-season, going 5-5 overall on the season. However, the Chiefs lost in the quarterfinals to the University of Illinois, the top-seeded team in their bracket. Waubonsee's 15-member team gained valuable experience going up against large, 4-year colleges during their inaugural campaign.
One of the negative side effects of this pandemic has been that it has hampered recruiting for next season. "It has made recruiting more difficult for sure," said Ericksen. "I had been going to the local high schools and making direct contacts with their club teams. Obviously I haven't been able to do that since." However, Ericksen does have a full roster of returning players for the Chiefs' Rocket League team for the coming fall season. "They were all first year students this spring, so they'll all be back. It is a talented group for sure, and we could go pretty far," declares Ericksen. Rocket League, along with Overwatch, FIFA 20 Soccer and Super Smash Brothers have all been sanctioned for competition by the NJCAA.
In the meantime, through Waubonsee's Youth Enrichment Program, Ericksen will be leading an Introduction to League of Legends course this coming weekend on Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3. This 2-day, 3-hour interactive course is free and open to anyone 14 years or older, and will take participants from total beginners to informed players and spectators. Just go to Waubonsee.edu and click on the Community Offerings tab to find the Youth Enrichment Program page to sign up.