Mar 9, 2023
Marshalltown Community College Spotlight
Marshalltown Community College (MCC) has not one, but two esports coaches; Andrew Goforth and Nathan Rodemeyer. MCC has had an esports program at their school since 2022 and has been proliferating ever since. MCC currently has 22 players across five titles (SSBU, MK8DX, Madden '23, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch 2) and is anticipating 40 for the 2023-2024 year. MCC also has five esports majors this school Spring and that is expected to double to 10-12 students in Fall 2023.
How did you get involved with esports and why is it important to you?
“I first got involved with esports as a high school teacher in Williamsburg, Iowa. We joined the Iowa High School Esports Association in 2019. Back then the league had six schools competing. As of last week, they have 94 schools (in 3.5 years!) During 2020, I helped create the IAHSEA's bylaws, served as their President-Elect from 2020-2021, and then their President from 2021-2022,” said Rodemeyer, “From there, I applied for a new position at MCC that we colloquially call the ‘Professor of Esports.’ I am creating and teaching a one-year diploma and two-year AAS degree called "Esports Program Management" designed for students who wish to work in the industry full-time in areas like coaching, broadcasting, marketing, event operations, and more.”
“I have been competing in competitive gaming since I was nine years old. Organized esports was not a readily available opportunity for me growing up, so it is important that I am able to provide the opportunity to do so to future generations,” said Goforth.
What does this (upcoming) season look like for your team?
“Things have started off strong across the board. As Coach Andrew mentioned, our Overwatch 2 team initially experienced a lot of volatility in terms of player turnover and landing on a settled starting roster, but they have found their groove and are becoming a tight-knit team and currently sit at a 2-0 record,” said Rodemeyer, “[Rainbow Six] Siege is currently playing in the invitational season and sitting at 2-1 after a hard-fought loss against the amazingly talented Barton Community College team. They have been such an incredibly dedicated and hardworking team that I anticipate them ending the regular season with a very strong record and making a good show during the postseason. They have a lot of work yet to do, but they have their sights set high, and so do we!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has had its ups and downs. The Smash scene is incredibly competitive and boasts a huge number of participants and that means the competition is always brutal. They consistently amaze us during practice but are at the point where their play is inconsistent and they aren't always able to apply what they've practiced in matches. We have been coaching them on how to close the gap between their knowledge and their execution to become more consistent players, as well as how to manage tilt as they all get in their own heads in different ways.
Mario Kart 8 DX is poised to have another great season. Our reigning NJCAAE champion, Amber Lawthers, faced likely her toughest opponent of the season in week one against in-state rival Iowa Western and suffered a very close loss. This was a new experience for her and "learning to lose" is a skill a player must develop like any other. That said, she's bounced back gracefully and is excited to continue her competition. We expect her to have a very strong spring season and make a strong appearance in playoffs, even with the heat being turned up now that the NJCAAE offers an invitational MK season that Amber is participating in.
Finally, Madden '23. Our Madden player, Adam Goodman, is an incredibly skilled mechanical player who is at the point where he needs coaching on play-calling and adapting. He's started the season strong with a 2-1 record, and we anticipate that he'll go far as the season continues. Adam is incredibly coachable and open to feedback and a very analytical player. He regularly scouts opponents and tries to learn from their play so he can adapt. I think there is a very strong chance he also makes it to the postseason.”
Rodemeyer was not the only coach to mention player Amber Lawthers, Goforth had nice things to say as well.
“As a full-time professor, as well as a coach, I can safely say that the level of student growth I see from my esports team is unparalleled. I have several students I could mention. Amber, our Mario Kart player, was a walk-on with a C-average. She went from that, to in one semester, winning a championship and finishing with a 4.0,” said Goforth.
In fact, Goforth expressed that he was proud of many of his students/players. According to Goforth, in-game leader, Jesus, was very timid when he first joined the team. He often apologized for innocuous things and had generally low confidence. Now, his entire demeanor is different. His professors speak highly of him in classes and he is turning quickly into a leader in the program.
“In Overwatch, I had two players climb from Bronze to Diamond in one semester with the help of our OW coach, Rick. Not only that, they are pre-engineering majors who maintain high grades. I would say, though, that ALL of our players have experienced significant growth as gamers and citizens due to their involvement in esports,” said Goforth.
Meanwhile, Rodemeyer spoke of two different players who stand out to him as a coach; Carter Griego and Austin Burke.
“Carter came to us as a ‘true flex.’ He is generally skilled at most games he picks up and served on the Siege roster (where he still plays as a backup in a pinch) before being moved to the Overwatch 2 team. His skill floor allows him to play at a competent level and he really learns and listens to the coaching he receives and is improving his own weaknesses and becoming a better teammate. Additionally, he has served as a standout leader in my academic program where he has done things like broadcasting high school championships, planning and running his own tournaments, and gaining a wide next of experiences that will prepare him very well for job placement and career success when he graduates,” said Rodemeyer.
According to Rodemeyer, Burke started classes on day one without a true vision of his future plans. He signed up as an esports major because of his love for gaming and also tried out to be on several of our teams. While he may not be the most skilled player on the team and had some initial trouble finding his footing, it eventually clicked for him. He found his niche as a broadcaster. Since then, Burke has broadcasted for every single title MCC has played at least once, he has broadcasted for high school championships, and has become the “face” of MCC Esports. He’s developed a strong on-air personality and such a following that if he isn’t on the mic, people will ask where “Wonderfulgoat17” is. Burke said that shout casting is his dream job and is taking every opportunity he can to cast more games and gain more experience.
What are some of the challenges that come with college esports?
“College esports, especially at the two-year level, attracts a lot of students that have, in my experience, little experience being on an organized team. The academic performance can also be hit or miss. A program needs a rigorous ethos and must uphold it, as these students often need to usually learn how to transition into the world of college academics, while also learning how to harness their passion, which most of them are quite talented at, in a team environment. With high school esports on the rise, however, this dynamic is shifting a bit,” said Goforth.
“Institutional support. Andrew and I are very lucky to be working at a college that believes in this from the top down. They have provided the space, resources, and tools to allow us to do our jobs to the best of our ability and truly have a dedicated esports program. Many schools aren’t so lucky. Many don’t have the ability or desire to fully support esports and instead use it as an enrollment tool. They’ll hire a fresh-out-of-college student or tell an existing faculty member that they are now the ‘esports coach,’ too. They also won’t get the physical space, equipment, IT support, or financial resources they need, and we see colleges across the country suffer for it,” said Rodemeyer, “You’ll see coaches who are overworked and underpaid to the point of not showing up to supervise matches, students playing on bad equipment or internet due to a lack of proper equipment, and programs that are just ‘clubs.’ This is unfortunate as it robs students of legitimate experiences to compete and grow and develop as players. Instead, they’re being corralled into a room (if they’re lucky) and told to play games. That isn’t a collegiate program, it is a video game club, and it harms the entire collegiate esports space as it leads to forfeits, no-shows, and a lack of commitment that can harm programs, leagues, and the reputation of college esports. If we want collegiate esports to thrive, we have to be willing to support it so that it can thrive.”
Marshalltown Community College is an active member of the National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAE). Here is what both coaches have to say about the organization:
“I believe it is crucial that leagues establish divisions based on institutional levels. Therefore, it is imperative to have an esports league dedicated to two-year institutions. I think like most esports leagues, there have/will be growing pains, but it is up to the members to shore those up,” said Goforth.
“The NJCAAE provides a valuable service to collegiate esports because it provides a dedicated home for community and junior colleges to compete without being forced to play against giant four-year colleges with more financial resources and experienced programs,” said Rodemeyer.
How do your players prepare for the NJCAAE Championships?
“Our players do all the things you'd expect. Scouting opponents, scrimmaging and running drills, reflecting upon and refining their own play. Obviously, this looks very different for individual titles versus team titles. For our team titles, we also drill into them that they are a team and what it means to play and act like a term versus a bunch of solo-queue players,” said Rodemeyer.
“We are the defending champions in Mario Kart, but suffered a close loss game won to in-state rival Iowa Western, 4-3. I expect to make it far again in Mario Kart and am hoping for a rematch against Iowa Western, but as with all the titles, it's a week-to-week process. Amber, our Mario Kart player, watches films of her opponents religiously. She practices time trials and is at practice over an hour early every time. She has the mindset it takes to win championships. Our Siege team scrims one to two times a week on top of their practices and games. They do this on their own, without any prompting from Nate or myself. They also religiously watch the film of their opponents. Winning a championship is a marathon. It requires both the technical skill to do so, but also maintaining a mindset of winning for 12+ weeks,” said Goforth.
Who are the two coaches outside of their roles at MCC? Goforth enjoys cooking tasty foods and writing D&D campaigns. At any opportunity, he wishes to combine these hobbies and host potluck campaigns. Meanwhile, Rodemeyer streams on his own Twitch channel twice a week to learn more about live streaming and reinforce concepts that he teaches in his classes. He is also a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda series.
“Esports is important to me because of the opportunities for teamwork, collaboration, self-reflection, and personal development that it offers in much the same way you'd find in any traditional sport. Esports opens those opportunities up to an entirely new audience of young people and engages and motivates them in ways they might not otherwise have, and it is amazing to see,” said Rodemeyer.
Stay tuned to see MCC Esports compete in the NJCAAE Championships and how they will grow in years to come!