Lebanon Valley College has received plenty of press so far for its new esports team. Now at least one local graduate of the program is now ready to see Lebanon County schools tap into what’s projected to grow into a billion dollar industry over the years to come.
Fredericksburg resident Ian Graft was a player on the school’s first esports roster, which came just in time before his graduation from the Valley last spring. Now a teacher at Palmyra’s Lingle Avenue Elementary where he is finishing up his certification, Ian Graft played football for Northern Lebanon before attending LVC, where he studied early childhood education.
Graft grew up playing console games on systems like XBox or PlayStation, and got into PC gaming through friends he met freshman year at LVC. His first few years of gaming, he and his friends played games informally, including CounterStrike, HvZ, Rocket League, and Overwatch.
He remembers when his fiancé told him about an email announcing the esports program, which prompted Ian and his friends to immediately indicate their interest in the team.
The esports arena was outfitted by Annville-based Candoris, but at first the squad practiced and competed from their dorm rooms. The PC’s are Alienware Aurora R7 computers, equipment secured through contributions by Candoris as well as Alienware and private donors. LVC’s matches are livestreamed on Twitch.
“At the start, we would practice from our dorm rooms, and our first match was actually not played from the arena together,” explained Graft, “and then they got the arena up and that was just a cool experience.”
Graft played on the “tank” role for the Overwatch squad, meaning he played characters that could soak up damage. (Don’t know what the heck that means? If you are willing dying to find out, hit up Gamepedia. Thanks to Ian for correcting us after we initially pegged him as a DPS player in the first release of this article.)
Esports at LVC is a partnership between the college’s Athletic Department, IT Department, student affairs, and academic affairs.
“People who says esports is not a sport, I totally disagree with that idea,” explains Graft. Esports players have to practice just as their peers in more traditional sports, and there’s a real threat of injury through carpal tunnel syndrome or other physical stress.
Team director David Shapiro agrees with this assessment, telling the York Daily Record, “We’re not hitting each other obviously, but the heart rate is still there, the mental awareness is still there and the prep time is still there.”
“My goal is to one day be able to coach an esports team at the high school level”, said Graft. “I want esports to get to the acceptance that a sport like baseball or football.” Although Graft does not see the same need for the sport to be played at the pee wee or elementary level.
Esports might get here locally sooner than you think. LVC has already begun recruiting high schoolers for its esports team, and even sponsors the Conestoga Valley High School esports squad.
Could you be next? Fill out this form and who knows – you might be on your way to a career as an esports athlete.