Apr 25, 2023
Coach Spotlight - Neftali Perez
Neftali Perez (he/him) is the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) Esports Coach and has been for the last two and a half years. The HACC Athletic Director originally approached Perez to help elevate the esports program off the ground. He found that it would be a great way to help others succeed in their academic journey.
The HACC esports team currently has 30 students participating.
“The upcoming season looks very promising, we have more students participating now more than ever and the Discord has truly become a gamers hub where other students love to join in on the hobby,” said Perez.
What are some of the challenges that come with college esports?
“Logistics is always a big issue, a lot of the time it’s hard to find good practice times that work for everyone. The match rescheduling can also be quite a big headache, getting the students to submit their paperwork in time and then of course keeping them all playing nice with each other. There is no shortage of challenges here,” said Perez, “Getting all of the students to get playtime is always a difficult balance. We get gamers from all skill levels and sometimes when you are trying to form a team you end up with a sub or two who are not on par as far as skill in their respective title. As an inclusive club, it is my duty to make sure that those extra subs do not feel exiled or left out so rotating them into the matches can be a bit tricky.”
In the two-plus years Perez has been involved in the HACC esports program, he has worked with many students. However, one has really stood out to him. The student signed up for the program in the first season, but before the season began found out he was ineligible to play due to his academics. Perez explained how this incident lit a fire in the student’s eyes unlike any he had ever seen. The following semester, he studied hard and passed all his classes because he wanted to be part of esports. The student is now one of the esports volunteers, has been the team captain of a team, attends a lot of the in-person events, and is doing phenomenal in his classes.
How do your players prepare for the NJCAAE Championships?
“Practice, practice and more practice,” said Perez, “Hats off to the NJCAAE, putting this league together and managing it season in and season out is quite the monumental task. Putting up with coaches such as myself when there are disputes and keeping themselves cool, calm, and collected, I’d say is more of a gift rather than a talent.”
Coach Perez believes that communication is key. He explained how there is so much importance in talking to students one on one and not relying on sending mass messages or mass e-mails. He explained that building a relationship with the players is what can really make the difference in whether the program takes off or not.
“So far taking on this role as the head coach of an esports program has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my life,” said Perez, “ I truly do feel like I am making a difference in the world and want to try and do this for long as I possibly can.”
Outside of esports, Perez describes himself as a wonderer. He loves getting lost in the city, going for runs with his dog, and solo bike rides. He is always discovering new beautiful sights.