Growing success of expanding sports programs offers viable option for students looking to continue athletic careers
As the Director of Athletics & Student Engagement, Brian Scott believes Great Bay is great option for the region’s high-achieving athletes who want to continue playing sports while pursuing an affordable education. Increasingly, Great Bay is also becoming a destination for competitive online gaming.
“We don’t have dorms and we can’t recruit a lot of students,” Scott said. “But we have huge opportunity to be an athletic program to all students who want to stay around the Seacoast. We are OK focusing our recruiting on Dover, Rochester, Portsmouth, and Newmarket. If those students want to stay close to home and do not want to pay a lot of money for their first two years of college, they can come here, get a great education and continue their athletic careers.”
Great Bay currently offers five traditional sports – men’s baseball, women’s softball, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s golf. It competes in the Yankee Small Conference within the U.S. College Athletic Association. Great Bay also recently elevated its budding esports program, outfitting a classroom on the Rochester campus for team-based online gaming against other college esports teams.
Scott is excited about the current state of the athletics program at Great Bay, and its future. The volleyball team had a winning season, bowing out in the conference semifinals. The men’s golf team finished second in the conference and qualified for the USCAA Nationals. The basketball season is in full swing.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “This is the first year all our sports are active and doing well. That momentum builds on itself. There is no reason we can’t be a destination for students who want to continue playing competitive sports after high school.”
In addition to its intercollegiate athletic teams, Great Bay has an intramural sports program to keep students athletically and socially engaged. Intramural sports include indoor soccer/Futsal, basketball, volleyball, and flag football.
But the big news is the growth of esports, in its second season. To offer the best gaming experience, in terms of technology and the social environment, Great Bay installed 10 gaming stations in Rochester, creating an esports arena. “We had to bring in a lot more power, and we worked with Atlantic Broadband to get the dedicated internet bandwidth necessary for this sort of thing at this scale. It’s important they don’t have drops in internet or lagging. Everything with esports has to be quick. If you have an internet that drops, that’s a huge disadvantage competitive-wise.”
Esports involves matches played online with other college opponents around the country in a variety of online games of skill, strategy and teamwork, some sports based. Among the games Great Bay teams compete in are Overwatch, Rocket League and Hearthstone. They also play Madden NFL and League of Legends.
“It’s thriving,” Scott said. “Students are excited about it and more want to participate all the time.”
It’s thriving not just at Great Bay, but nationally. Forbes recently reported more than 170 U.S. colleges have varsity esports programs and are offering around $16 million per year in scholarships. National tournaments attract more than 1,350 schools and more than 40,000 players, according to the magazine.
Additionally, the National Association of Collegiate Esports recently announced the formation of the NACE Starleague, which will become the largest collegiate esports league in North America with more than 14,500 students from 600 colleges and universities.
Back inside the esports arena at Great Bay, the golf team recently challenged the Rocket League team to an in-person scrimmage – and lost decisively. The room was full of energy, with the lights darkened and the gaming consoles lit up like flares. The barbs – good-natured – moved swiftly between the teams. “With two teams in the room together, the atmosphere was pretty intense,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu.