Texas Scholastic Esports Federation hosts virtual college fair

Students and parents get a first-hand look at several programs and a Rocket League production.

The college esports recruiting process can be dizzying. When students and parents are searching for that right fit, they often stumble across new programs, new coaches and few real resources (short of live match streams).

The pandemic has further complicated potential meet-and-greets, effectively shutting down campus tours. But one organization is helping to bridge those gaps and bring them together in one space.

On Sunday, the nonprofit Texas Scholastic Esports Federation hosted  a huge virtual college fair for high school students and parents with 13 of the top programs across the Lone Star State to give them further guidance and insight.

One of the nation’s premier esports organizations focused on advancing opportunity for students and providing them with safe spaces to connect, the educator-run TEXSEF put together a robust agenda to help gamers and family members connect with college and university leaders.

“We really want to answer questions for parents and arm parents with the resources to make decisions,” said Danielle Johnson, Executive Director of the Texas Scholastic Esports Federation. “Here’s what you need to ask programs. Here’s how you find a legitimate program. There is a lot of information and best practices if you’re an elite athlete being recruited by colleges, but there is not a lot of that for esports. I’ve heard a few horror stories of students saying, ‘this is what I was told, but when I got there, this is what was there.’

“We put together a vetting program for colleges that wanted to be part of the fair: you have to have a program that meets these requirements or we’re not going to vouch for you.”

Two major highlights were the 1 hour, 30-minute open house where students discussed potential opportunities and pitched themselves to coaches and directors. The other was a behind-the-scenes look at Rocket League matches.

“It’s a full-blown production for a 2 out of 3 match,” Johnson says. “We want parents to say, “Oh, I recognize those skills’ and be able to see the producer and what their screen looks like and what is being told to the shoutcasters.”

Colleges on hand included Blinn College, Dallas Baptist University, Lubbock Christian University, Oklahoma City University,Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, University of Oklahoma University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, University of North Texas, University of St. Thomas in Houston, and the University of North Texas at Dallas.

The day kicked off with a session called Setting the Tone: Panel with Leadership which was moderated by Danny Martin, esports professor at Southern Methodist University and CEO of Esposure, which provides an educational ecosystem of resources for young gamers and guidance for those who turn pro as well as help for those starting programs. Representatives from college, high school and the pros discussed trends and insight at all three levels.

There also were Q&As for students to ask other students about esports and student life, and one with representatives from Mavs Gaming, the esports arm of the NBA team.

“The Dallas Mavericks gave us tons of swag, so every kid that attended got a whole pack of stuff,” Johnson said.

There were two other development sessions later in the day, including one specifically targeting parents and the need to support their children in esports, as well as one that focused on competitive collegiate governance and the ever-changing landscape.

The event was not just for gamers but those interested in other aspects of gaming. They are being recruited, too.

“The students that have signed up … a lot of them don’t play on esports teams but are very interested in shoutcasting and journalism and all of these adjacent topics,” Johnson said.

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