Irvine Valley College’s newest sports team isn’t fighting it out on the field or contending on the court. They’re rallying in rows of 27-inch ViewSonic desktop monitors, locked into the intense graphics glowing on their screens.
The IVC Laser Esports Arena is home base for more than 100 students and various faculty who participate in the College’s revolutionary esports program. You’ll find the impressive “lounge for the leet” on the Irvine Valley College campus, located in the Student Activities Center.
“There’s all this cool information in field sports that’s not being transferred to esports,” explains Gurpreet Multani, coach for the Valorant team and the newly appointed Performance Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Esports program.
With a strong background in exercise science and kinesiology, Multani has abundant experience working with youth and collegiate players in traditional sports. Multani also brings along an impressive resume in regard to D1 athletics, having prepared student-athletes for the highest levels – including organizations like the Los Angeles Rams and Brooklyn Nets.
“I got pretty good experience working with a lot of different types of athletes,” notes the exercise expert. “I just found that stuff a little bit boring. I thought a lot of the sports performance side of that was already figured out for a lot of them.”
From stretching to strafing… flexing to fragging… Multani’s unusual path represented a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Irvine Valley College to apply an existing skill set to an exciting new medium.
“We expect to see a holistic improvement in our competitive operations, results, and culture as a direct result of [Multani’s] efforts,” declares Adam Lopez, Esports Program Coordinator at IVC. "His expertise in leading students down the right thought paths to achieve optimal results in esports performance is rare and valuable."
Spelling “sports” with an “E” was an easy leap for Multani. As an avid gamer himself, he says the opportunity to join the program was “exciting … and I decided to jump in."
The Esports program launched exclusively online in 2020 before transitioning to face-to-face practices and competitions with the addition of IVC’s high-tech Laser Esports Arena. The inclusive program invites any student to join, choosing from games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League and Valorant. Whether looking to build their skills to move into professional gaming or just pursue a hobby, the program offers something for everyone, from “noob” to “ace.”
“We all come from different types of backgrounds,” explains Adam Nelson, part-time esports professor and the newest addition to the IVC program. “I would define it as something like we all come from different music genres.
“While we’re all at our computers or our consoles playing something, we’re all basically doing the same thing. That’s where we like to see all these different personalities and different backgrounds intersect.”
The newest staff member brings along a robust resume, having worked for gaming giants like Blizzard, Activision, and Riot Games. Nelson’s most recent role as Associate Global Digital Marketing Manager for Battle.net, a digital gaming platform owned by Blizzard, affords him the professional insight Lopez says is essential for the program’s growth.
“[Nelson’s] presence alone will elevate our program’s optics and attract top talent to join us,” states Lopez. “Given the critical importance of recruitment in collegiate esports, having someone with [his] background and expertise on staff is a game-changer.”
The pun very much intended, Lopez goes on to predict big things not only for the esports team, but for partnerships and connections within the industry, thanks to Nelson’s arrival.
“In particular, his involvement with our careers division, which is vital to our overall success, will be enormous.”
As a gamer for years — both professionally and for pleasure — Nelson offers a unique perspective for students looking to break into the industry.
“[Lopez] came to me with an opportunity to come help teach students as a part-time professor, where I would be able to assist students that were interested in not only social media, but digital marketing, live news reporting for esports," he explains.
Nelson’s commitment to the esports program runs deeper than simply helping students land an “epic win.” His goal is to give future gaming professionals a boost in the highly competitive industry: “Just trying to help these students understand that just because you want to work in esports, that’s not the end goal. You need something defined.”
Through esports, students can amass an impressive toolbelt of skills applicable to almost any field. Besides professional and competitive gaming, the program opens doors to potential careers in industries like social media, advertising, web development and video editing. Nelson encourages students to specialize, noting that nailing down a specific gaming-centered career pathway is vital for gaining traction in the industry.
“As someone who’s been through the ringer … I know what to tell these students and how to teach these students to be successful and give them a cutting advantage above most other students that are looking to join the industry,” says the part-time professor.
The addition of Multani and Nelson is already spawning impressive results, bringing new attention to the IVC esports program and helping students level up. Between his own experience in the industry and Multani’s impressive background in competitive athletics, Nelson says IVC students will have access to the best of both worlds.
“With this program, we’re going to be able to train these students to not only be part of this industry without knowing someone, but we’re going to make them better than the people that have those connections."
Along with the two new professors, the program recently added an all-female/non-binary team, Valorant White. In the future, the program hopes to accomplish a collegiate championship win, attract a more diverse student population, and continue to improve the program's core infrastructure.
“Our California Community College esports program is a true pioneer in the field, and our success and growth have far-reaching effects that can change the lives of countless students throughout the state,” says Lopez.
“We are committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible and continuing to set an example for other schools to follow.”
Learn more about the IVC Esports program by visiting their program page at www.ivc.edu/esports.