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Mia White

Mar 25, 2024

Representation in Esports

As esports continues to expand globally, it is also experiencing a proportional rise in the presence of women. Within the National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAE), women's representation in esports is clearly evident. This Women’s History Month, the NJCAAE had the opportunity to delve into the backgrounds of women within their membership.

The exploration began with Shantee Siebuhr, who currently directs Student Life and Development at Grayson College. Siebuhr has enthusiastically embraced this role for the past three years.

“I was actually voluntold for this role. I remember thinking, my biggest claim to esports fame was that I saved the princess quite a few times on the original Nintendo. I wasn’t sure I could build an esports program from scratch,” said Siebuhr, “I had the support of area colleagues, the NJCAAE (Matt King is literally the best), and my students on really tough days! Our students can really make you believe you can do anything.”

Like any job, individuals experience both rewarding moments and challenges. Siebuhr emphasizes the transformative nature of community college. 

“Community college is an incredible place for people to learn more about who they are. They can experience things they never knew they were missing. They can learn things about themselves they never knew they needed to know. They can find these things in the most random of interactions and opportunities on a community college campus. It's quite magical. I like being a part of that magic,” said Siebuhr.

Siebuhr acknowledges that the greatest difficulty in her role is encountering students with unmet needs, realizing that not all issues can be resolved.

What is it like being a woman in esports?

“Higher Education is typically a female-dominated area, so stepping into esports where most of the coaches I have worked with have been male, that has been different. What I have appreciated about the NJCAAE as a whole, is that no one has treated me differently because I am a woman in esports. I am still a professional, I am still putting together a quality program for my students, and our goal is all the same, no matter the gender. That is not always the case in some organizations. I appreciate that,” said Siebuhr, “After my first month of asking 9,000 questions to Matt King via email, he hadn’t kicked me out of the organization, instead, was patient and continued to reiterate he was here to support us as we got our teams off the ground. If that doesn’t speak to the quality of the NJCAAE, I don’t know what does.”

Next up is Saph Gale, a second-year art student at Missouri State University - West Plains (MSU-WP). Gale is an Overwatch player on the MSU-WP esports team and is pretty new to the scene.

“I got involved in esports because of a friend. She told me I should join since I had a chance to, so I did,” said Gale, “I play for my friend.” Gale explained that she initially had little experience with Overwatch, stating, “I had never really touched Overwatch before tryouts at my college. It’s a silly story, but I originally signed up for Valorant but ended up in the Overwatch tryouts.”

 Determined to improve, she practiced diligently, often motivating herself with the mantra, “One more game.” This mindset, she said, helped her develop resilience and discipline.

“I learned to not give up or back down even when I hated practicing. I learned discipline.” Gale's dedication was evident as she described her daily routine: “I continued grinding daily. I did character warm-ups, aim training, watched professional players, watched top 500 players, played lots of competitive matches, got better equipment, took as much advice as I could, and every practice I would bring a notebook and write down anything I could improve on,” said Gale.

Unfortunately, as Gale juggled her other hobbies and esports, her carpal tunnel worsened, necessitating adjustments to her practice routine. She notes that while her gameplay evolves constantly, it remains effective, and she continues to see improvements.

She received the same question as Siebuhr: What is it like being a woman in esports?

“I do not like the stereotype that girls or women can’t play video games. Like every other person it just takes time and practice. I believe anyone can be good at games if they work hard at it. I would like to see more kindness and acceptance towards women and/or girls who play video games. I enjoy being in the esports scene, and I hope I can continue to be,” said Gale, “I have found it to be sometimes toxic [outside of the NJCAAE]. However, I hope by playing, I can give other girls/women the confidence to play. If I can leave a positive mark on the esports community, perhaps the community could be a kinder and more respectful place; a place to appreciate and have fun playing video games.”

Though separated by over 450 miles, these two women share similar experiences as women in esports. While their roles, backgrounds, and tenure in the field vary, they are connected by their common journey. We posed the question to both: What advice do they have for other women and girls in gaming?

“You may walk into a space and feel outnumbered or unwelcome. Don’t let that stop you. You deserve to be in any space you want to occupy. Do it. Try your best and do it,” said Siebuhr.

“If you want to play a game, play it. Don’t let negativity stop you. Keep doing your best and play what you find fun, if you want to get better, get better. You will improve if you set your mind to it,” said Gale.

Empowering women in esports and promoting diversity within the gaming industry are crucial endeavors. For those seeking to contribute, the solution is straightforward: embody kindness, foster safe environments, and maintain an open-minded and inclusive attitude toward all.

NJCAA Esports Alternate Logo

National Junior College Athletic

Association Esports

8801 J.M. Keynes Drive - Suite 450.

Charlotte, NC 28262

(719) 590-9788

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