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SAIT adds eSports to campus athletic program

By Jason Herring, June 13 2017 – 

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is introducing a new dimension of sports to their athletics and recreation program this fall.

The SAIT Trojans recreational athletics department is gauging student interest in eSports — or competitive video gaming — with four tournaments during the fall and winter semesters.

Trojans recreation programmer Jared Hidber said the introduction of eSports on campus was inspired by successful programs at other North American schools.

“We’ve seen an increase in eSports and eGaming across the States, and it’s coming into Eastern and Western Canada. The University of British Columbia, for example, have a really good team,” Hidber said. “We see it as a good opportunity to provide recreational opportunities for students in the eGaming world.”

The United States already have a varsity gaming league, the National Collegiate eSports Association. St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario is currently the only Canadian school with a varsity eSports team. Hidber said the Trojans are launching their eSports program as a recreational sport while they test student interest — a similar approach to other schools with eSports.

“Right now we’re planning on running four tournaments to see on campus who’s interested and what they want to do,” he said. “If there are possible teams that want to be competitive, we might be able to send them somewhere to play competitively, like at the UBC.”

Hidber stressed that details are not official but listed NHL 2018, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, FIFA 18 and Overwatch as games students can anticipate playing at the tournaments. The tournaments will be held either in the Gateway — SAIT’s campus pub — or the Irene Lewis Atrium. The Trojans are also working on partnerships with the SAIT Students’ Association and Microsoft.

Despite the obvious differences, Hidber said eSports are more similar to traditional competitive sports than many think.

“ESports have professional teams now. They do stuff as a team, they train five hours a day, they eat healthy. It’s very athletic-oriented as far as the mentality goes,” he said. “There’s also the physical aspect with the hand-eye coordination.”

Full details on SAIT’s eSports program will be posted on the SAIT recreation website in September.

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