Indian River State College propels the esports team to impressive heights in the competition’s inaugural semester

IRSC Esports Jersey Photos

Fort Pierce – Thursday 15 December 2022: Indian River State College (IRSC) Athletics entered the esports space in August, and the four-man team has already made impressive strides in several major tournaments. In fact, the IRSC team now ranks 1st in Florida and 3rd in North America in Rocket League play.

Esports, short for Electronic Sports, are team-based video game competitions watched online on the Twitch live streaming service or in person in arenas by viewers – sometimes by the thousands – across the country and around the world. Corresponding wealth Magazine, the global esports market has nearly 500 million fans worldwide, will reach $1.44 billion this year and is projected to grow to more than $5 billion by 2029.

The IRSC Esports team’s game of choice is called Rocket League. Think of it as an electronic version of soccer – but instead of animated humans kicking a small ball across the field, souped-up race cars collide with a giant soccer ball, trying to move it across the field and into the goal. The IRSC team excels in this game, which is the most popular among colleges and universities.

In October, they won the Rocket League portion of the 2022 Battle for Florida competition hosted by the University of South Florida. They next competed in the Eastern Conference of the worldwide Collegiate Rocket League (CRL) tournament sponsored by Rocket League parent company Psyonix and tournament promoter College Carball Association (CCA). They placed third out of 320 teams from colleges in the eastern US and Canada. They then moved on to the CRL National Championship in November, finishing third out of all 534 collegiate teams in the North American Conference, which includes the United States, Canada and Mexico.

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“eSports is a fast growing industry and with so many other colleges forming esports teams, the IRSC not only wanted to get into the arena but also show that we can hold our own against the big universities” said Shaun Wightman, Head Coach of IRSC Sport. “Our players are not children who play video games in their spare time. These are highly skilled, highly trained players who are valued in college just as much as any other athlete. Esports will draw a lot of attention to IRSC.”

IRSC Athletic Director Scott Kimmelman agrees: “We were very excited to launch the esports initiative and house it under the intercollegiate athletics umbrella,” said Kimmelman. “The trainer and team members have proved to be a welcome addition to our department from the start. Their instant success in Florida and national competitions makes them top contenders. This recognition will help transform the college locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.”

Teams consist of three players and one deputy. The players are Sebastian Becerra, 22, from Los Angeles, California, who goes by the catchphrase “Sea-Bass”; Sean Downard, 18, of Auburndale, Fla., whose tag is Tacostash84; Blade Taylor, 19 and from Las Vegas, Nevada, whose tag is “SlaYeR”; and Haden Osteen, 22, of Vero Beach, who goes by the name “Disrxptor,” is the team’s deputy.

Games are played at a breakneck pace with driving electronic music as the background. Players, if they are good enough, can earn money by coaching other players. Cars can be customized, from body styles and wheel designs to liveries, stripes, and decals. And selling music and design elements and effects provides additional revenue streams for Psyonix, the company that started Rocket League. The IRSC team’s jerseys feature the likeness of the college’s new Pioneer mascot.

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Successful professional players can make money by winning prizes in competitions, coaching other players, and becoming a good enough player to receive sponsorship money from big companies like sports drink companies and sportswear manufacturers. But by creating collegiate-level teams, the sport offers players more value than money. As with other sanctioned sports, students who play well enough can receive scholarships and use their involvement with the team as a way to fund some or all of IRSC’s education.

Haden Osteen could not have afforded to go to college if it weren’t for the sport. As a member of the team, Osteen qualifies for a scholarship to study criminal justice at the IRSC. Players can receive scholarships for bachelor’s degrees from IRSC or other colleges. Osteen will graduate with an associate degree in Spring 2023 and plans to continue his studies in business administration at IRSC.

To enter collegiate tournaments, CRL rules require players to have a 2.0 GPA, but to remain on the IRSC team the standard is higher — players must maintain a 3.0 GPA, he said Wightman. All four team members meet this standard. “Like all other athletics programs at IRSC, the college takes education very seriously,” Wightman said.

To qualify for scholarships, gamers don’t necessarily have to study in a field related to games or sports — but some do. Before joining the IRSC team, Sebastian Becerra played Rocket League professionally for years and earned more than $40,000 as a pro. “I want to be able to compete for as long as possible, and that gives me the opportunity to get free training while I’m doing it,” he said.

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“I love being able to use a hobby I’ve had for five years, sitting in my room, to get out into the world and get an education,” said Sean Downard, who is responsible for his AA degree studied.

Blade Taylor, the team’s captain and statistician, is currently the coach of Team White Rabbit of the Rocket League Championship Series in South Africa. “I’m still making a path as a coach, but now being part of a college team opens up a path that I didn’t have before. I look forward to building my legacy in the scene as much as possible as a collegiate player. It’s also really cool to have a nice backup plan when my competition time is up.” Taylor is also studying business administration.

The team’s crowning achievement came on November 19 when they defeated the reigning champions, the Northwood University Blue Team, in front of an online audience of more than 22,000 people. “It was pretty amazing,” Wightman recalls. Blue placed second in the North American finals while IRSC placed third.

Next up for the team is the Eastern Conference qualifiers in January. If they do well and advance to the Nationals and do well there, they can qualify for next summer’s CRL World Championship tournament. In the meantime, Wightman said, they’ll be upgrading some hardware and making plans to move to a new location tailored to their brand. “One day I’d like to have a space where we can invite other colleges over here to compete with us,” he said.

To follow the team’s progress, be sure to check the team’s social media. Her name is @IRSCEsports on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

IRSC Esports Jersey Photos

IRSC now has an Esports team. IRSC Esports competes in nationwide Rocket League championships. The team ranks 3rd in College Rocket League tournaments nationally