Esports Program Launches with New Coach and State-of-the-Art Facility

Published on 11 November 2020

The newly established esports program at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis is taking off with the addition of a new head coach and the completion of a state-of-the-art facility in Jones Hall.

In September, Fernando Paiva officially assumed duties as the head coach of esports at the University and has since begun recruiting students to join teams at the club, junior varsity and varsity levels.

While esports is part of the University’s athletics program, it is organized differently than traditional college athletics. Whereas a traditional team would only expect to play against other teams in their conference and region, esports is a wide-open field in which any school can play against another, remotely or in person.

“I’ve been actively recruiting current students and am looking forward to reaching out to prospective students in the coming months,” Paiva explained. “Once the teams are formed this semester, we’ll start training and competing in a variety of individual and team events.”

The University’s team is part of the National Association for Collegiate Esports (NACE), a nonprofit membership organization created to develop the structure and tools needed to advance collegiate esports in the varsity space. As the only existing association of varsity esports programs at colleges and universities nationwide, NACE includes over 170 member schools and 5,000 competitors across the U.S.

As a former esports coach and competitive tennis player, Paiva brings a wealth of connections with businesses and professionals in the esports arena to his new role.  

“I was impressed with Fernando’s professional connections as well as his enthusiasm for esports and desire to serve his community,” stated Jill Harter, director of athletics, fitness and recreation. “He has many creative ideas to connect our program with corporate sponsors as well as integrate it into the University community.”

The addition of Paiva as head coach comes as the University wraps up construction of its new state-of-the-art esports facility in Jones Hall. The space boasts 30 dedicated computers, an exhibition area with large screen televisions for playing console games, practice rooms, office space, a media room for broadcasting games and a kitchen with vending machines and snacks. In light of COVID-19, clear panels have also been added between each computer to keep players safe.

“In learning about this job, I was very impressed with the University’s commitment to creating a dedicated esports facility with top-rated equipment,” said Paiva. “In hearing about the investments they’d made, I knew that the school was serious about developing a competitive, top-tier esports program.”

Development of the esports program was spearheaded by Eric Knoll, Ph.D., vice president of operations, who says esports is about much more than playing video games.

“I see the esports program as a direct reflection of the University’s efforts to expand its health care-focused academic programs,” Knoll explained. “With our new name and brand identity, we’re finding new ways to leverage our strengths to meet the changing needs of students, patients and the broader health care industry. The skills that players develop in esports, such as teamwork, problem-solving and rapid data analysis, are ones that students can apply to a number of health care-related fields.”

With the facility now ready, Paiva hopes to begin competing before the end of the fall semester.

“I’m excited to welcome students into our beautiful esports facility and to start training them to play competitively with teams throughout the region,” stated Paiva. “This is an incredible opportunity for the University and our students, and I can’t wait to see where the program will go from here.”

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