Institutional support can have a huge factor on a team’s success, and there’s no better example than Akron’s varsity esports program competing in their first season of Collegiate Rocket League.
Outside of coaching and logistical support, student-manager Aidan Bellucci said the players participate in regular strength training and yoga sessions to stay healthy. This helps them stay in peak condition outside the game, and player Buzz “Buzz” Krager said it’s an amazing part of the program.
Akron’s varsity program has also worked to ensure players like Krager compete in the first place. Since Tespa only allows full-time students to participate in CRL, Akron helped get the documentation Krager needed to prove he was qualified to compete.
Why did Krager face questions in the first place? He’s only 16-years-old and technically still in high school. But, thanks to the full course load he’s taking concurrently at the University of Akron, he’s just as eligible as anyone else.
Having such a young player on the team has its challenges. For example, Bellucci said one time a stream match ran late, forcing Krager to explain to his mother why he was out past his 11:00 p.m. curfew. Despite that, though, Bellucci said Krager is such an outgoing person that he never lets the age difference intimidate him.
Krager said all the support is what drives him and his teammates to win the finals. He also wants to positively impact collegiate esports in general.
“Akron is becoming a big name in the esports industry thanks to its teams, and the word is starting to spread,” Krager said. “There are people coming to Akron just for esports, and it’s kind of insane. So, if we can represent schools and programs like this well, it shows how this should be a thing alongside regular sports.”
The team is also motivated to win because, according to Bellucci, they have a bet with their esports director. If Akron manages to win the national title, he has to get a tattoo of the Zips esports logo.
Whether or not their esports director ends up in the tattoo chair depends on which Akron team shows up on December 8. According to Bellucci and Krager, the team has had several ups and downs throughout the season.
“When they’re high on themselves, when they think they’re playing good, they play great,” Bellucci said. “But when they get a little down on themselves, they get really quiet and don’t play as well.”
Bellucci said he tries to help keep the team’s spirits up during those low points because Akron can steamroll anyone when they’re feeling it. He added that Krager, Isaac “Reticence” Stecker and William “Salty Popsicle” Weiser have a strong sense of teamwork.
The good news for Akron is that, regardless of how well they play this weekend, the future looks bright for this young team. Bellucci expects them to improve together next year. And with multiple teams in this CRL final demonstrating the power of a veteran roster, Akron could easily be a regular contender for years to come.
Don’t forget to read up on their competition to get the full picture of the finals: