In a few months, Drew Boehm will oversee his student-athletes in competition for the Saint Mary Spires in a tournament. Instead of being on a volleyball court or wrestling mat, Boehm will coach the team on the popular multiplayer online battle arena video game “League of Legends.” Games like “League of Legends” and “Fortnite” are big in the growing medium of esports. The growth of competitive gaming has caused the University of Saint Mary to launch its own esports program. It will be the 21st varsity sport for the Spires.

Boehm loved video games growing up. While playing other sports like basketball, he continued to game in his free time and he said it just stuck. By the time he went to Texas Christian University, Boehm joined the Gamer’s Guild which allowed card, board and video game players to come together and play. He eventually became president of the club. Toward the end of his college career, Boehm also helped start an esports club at TCU, but he graduated soon after so he did not get to participate as much with it.

The program will start with creating teams for a couple games before possibly expanding to more.

“Right now we are putting together a ‘League of Legends’ team,” Boehm said. “Very likely that we will also put together a ‘Fortnite’ team because there are some tournaments coming up in the spring.”

Right now, the teams will be put together with current Spires students, but like other sports, Boehm will recruit new student-athletes to play for the Spires. Just like sports like football, Boehm will have gamers send in highlight footage and he will attend recruiting events to get the next members of his team. 

“Almost in a way to treat it like any other sport,” Boehm said. 

The team will practice three to five times a week with more frequent and longer practices closer to tournaments. The coach will also require his players to go to the gym a certain number of times a week as well. Boehm said working out will help with critical thinking and reaction times. 

The esports facilities are currently under construction on the Saint Mary campus. When it is complete, the team will play in Mead Hall. The facility will have around a dozen custom built computers for gaming in one area along with a big screen TV and seating to watch in another area. There also will be whiteboards near the TV so he and the team can determine what strategies to use during practices and tournaments.  

One of the unique aspects of competitive video games is it allows the teams to compete in the tournaments on Saint Mary’s campus while going up against another esports team in a different location. It also helps in the recruiting process as Boehm could play a game on “Fortnite” while he is on campus and the recruit is in another state like Texas.

Another aspect that will make coaching esports unique is the constant evolution. Games like “Fortnite” and “League of Legends” are updated frequently and in the middle of a competitive season. Strategies and gameplay mechanics that may work in January will be altered and not a viable strategy in March. 

“Part of my job will be keeping up with it all,” Boehm said. “I will have to be on top of all the patch notes (for the updates and changes to the game). So there is going to be a lot of behind-the-scenes strategizing on a day-to-day basis.”

A common comparison that is used would be the NBA removing the 3-point line in the middle of the season. 

For more information about the Spires’ esports program visit www.gospires.com/esports or contact Boehm at Drew.Boehm@stmary.edu