Attention online gamers! Zachary Gandara wants to talk to you. Zachary, the new Esports Director at Anna Maria College, is hard at work preparing a team for the fall. He’s an online gamer himself who knows what it takes to compete. Zachary has made 18 post season appearances, including two Eastern College Athletic Conference championships. We posed seven questions to Zachary and here are his answers.
- What’s Anna Maria actually launching and why?
“Anna Maria is launching its first Varsity Esports team this Fall. These competitive team-based video games combine the strategic maneuvering of chess, the teamwork of basketball, and the quick twitch fine motor control of sports like baseball and golf. This venture into esports brings competition and school spirit to a previously untapped fan base and extends our reach to a national scene. We will be competing against schools around the country in and outside of our regular division.”
2. What’s your background…how did you get involved in esports?
“I started in esports as an Overwatch player before transitioning to Counter-Strike. I directed the esports program at Providence College from 2019 to 2021 while earning a master’s degree in higher education and sports administration. Across my four seasons there, I was a voting member of the Big East Esports Board and coached the teams to 18 post season appearances including two Eastern College Athletic Conference championships.”
3. What do you look for in an esports athlete?
“Mental Toughness. It does not matter how skilled someone is if they cannot maintain their composure in a match. Everyone needs to be on board in order to win. One person falling off makes it very difficult for the others.”
4. It seems like there’s a lot of equipment required? What are some of the most important items gamers need?
“There is a decent amount of equipment required, yes. Everyone needs to have a strong computer, an unwavering internet connection, and a microphone headset, but the most important items are the mouse, mousepad, and keyboard. Those pieces differ drastically across brands and models. Everyone is very used to their personal equipment and while a lot of it is interchangeable, the players need to be comfortable with their mouse, mousepad, and keyboard.”
5. What do students learn from esports?
“Students learn traditional teamwork and time management but more tangibly, esports players must maintain their equipment. This means performing regular maintenance on computers. Most players consider it a rite of passage to personally build their own computer which teaches practical skills and often fosters interest in STEM as well.
I’ll add that there are plenty of career opportunities that value applicants who have collegiate esports experience. Professional teams and leagues each have hundreds of employees and want their new hires to already be acquainted with the competitive scene. They have openings in every field from finance to sports management to marketing. The professional scene is growing fast.”
6. What are your first-year goals?
“Well, everyone wants to win, but this first year is more about fostering a culture that will attract more students to Anna Maria College and this program. We are in the process of creating esports space – a training facility. This will help drive interest in the program when it’s complete. Looking ahead, I want to make post season appearances. While winning a championship is unlikely in the first year, we are going to come out swinging and give it everything we’ve got.”
7. What advice do you have for high school juniors and seniors if they are looking for an esports program?
“Reach out! If you know you have talent but maybe your high school does not have a team, just start emailing coaches and colleges. We want to hear from you. Just send an email with your qualifications, whether that is rank or competitive experience.”
Prospective and current students who are interested in Anna Maria Esports can email firstname.lastname@example.org.