Cornell College kicks off inaugural esports team

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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (KCRG) - Cornell College in Mount Vernon is getting their esports team together. Esports is a competitive video gaming.

This is the first year Cornell is offering the sport, joining hundreds of colleges across the country.

The college team has six players and needs 12 more to fill out the roster. It's happening at their esports Arena inside Thomas Commons.

Cornell college invested $65,000 to turn a lounge area into a gaming arena with 12 new computers, gaming chars, a headset and it's handicap accessible.

Some students say they never thought their dreams of playing video games competitively would become a virtual reality.

Because Benjamin Soderberg's body didn't warp to the size of a five-star athlete, he said he leveled up his video gaming skills to fuel his competitive fire.

"It's really nice to play competitive video games in a structured form,” said Soderberg. “With people who are really trying to go, and really trying to win."

The team will compete against other colleges in the game Overwatch. Esports has some similarities to contact team sports. They have to play as a team.

"If you can't communicate, you miss important things, important timings, and then you just lose value, and then it's over,” Soderberg said.

Players can't participate if they're injured. It's game over for Edan Cohavi until his wrist is healed after a work-related injury.

"You're using a mouse,” he said. “So it requires a lot of precise movement side to side with your wrist."

Mayson Sheehan is a worldwide-ranked gamer, who came to Cornell to coach the esports team. He has them practicing ten hours per week.
Besides gaming, they do exercises to work on hand-eye coordination. There's no cheat code to becoming a champ.

"Develop muscle memory,” said Sheehan, “Just like would for something like Tennis or golf. There's a lot to go into students or players subconscious ability to know how far they're gonna move their hand and how far they will move them in-game."

The team is ready to power on for their first tournament on Sept. 27. Soderberg says there's no reset button if they lose.

"Esports is just a great out for me because I get to be competitive that way without having to be super fit,” he said.

The current players can't get scholarships because it's not retroactive, but the incoming freshman recruits can. Practice is weekday evenings from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Currently, students can come play at the esports arena when practice isn't going on.