Salt Lake Community College Esports, introduced to the Athletics Department in January 2020, is poised to pick up again next spring with the hiring of a veteran coach.
Jeffrey Sosa, a former competitor and the new program director, aims to highlight esports – short for electronic sports – as a viable form of competition. Sosa enters the role with an extensive background in competition: He competed in tournaments for the video game “Halo 2,” and majored in ballroom education at Brigham Young University.
Sosa has been developing esports programs throughout the Alpine School District and previously maintained the role of esports director at Westlake High School.
“We are just thrilled to have him [Sosa] here,” said Kevin Dustin, director of athletics and recreation at SLCC.
Dustin decided to bring esports to SLCC after hearing buzz through traditional sports circles. He recalled receiving many questions about esports from colleagues and friends, and said the Scenic West Athletic Conference considered the idea of adding esports to their program.
Globally, the esports market was valued at over $1.38 billion in 2022, according to Statista, and is projected to reach $1.86 billion by 2025. Total worldwide viewership of esports reached 532 million this year.
“We saw some demonstrations, some games were played; we began to understand the equipment needed … but I saw it from a new set of eyes,” Dustin said.
With a new understanding of esports, Dustin elevated the previously student-run club to the Athletics Department at the beginning of 2020. The pandemic caused the program to waver in enrollment and publicity, but now, Dustin is enthusiastic about its future with the welcoming of Sosa.
For Sosa, the term “esports” can be used interchangeably with sports in conversation.
“There have been key players that showed some kids just need a place to go … and esports is their place,” Sosa said speaking about his experience as esports director with Westlake High School, adding that he watched the program explode in popularity.
“We began with maybe six people,” he continued. “By the end of my time there, [numbers] were in the 80s.”
The prize for students is typically scholarship money. Within the school esports organizer PlayVS, for example, prize pools range from $10,000 to $50,000. A new player in the world of Utah high school esports organizers is Ken Garff Esports, which holds the Fall Festival Regional at different Utah colleges across the state.
In an attempt to gather the funding needed for SLCC Esports, Dustin emphasized the importance of studying where these programs are already popular, such as Westlake High School.
Sosa intends to grow SLCC Esports through his knowledge of traditional sports experience, but he expects the initial startup to take some time, citing challenges in finding space and equipment. Equipment includes computers strong enough to run games at a competitive level.
Sosa and Dustin are also in the middle of deciding where to station the program. Athletic programs are primarily located at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, but both make the argument that the audience for competitive video games is more aligned with the courses that South City Campus offers.
Sosa said he’s hopeful about the direction of SLCC Esports, and is aiming for equipment and space availability in January, followed by an enrollment push this spring semester.
SLCC Esports will hold an informational meeting for students this Friday at 7 p.m. in the Lifetime Activities Center, located on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.