Virtual combine showcases top esports athletes in Indiana and across the country

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INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of high schoolers are preparing to virtually showcase their gaming talents to the nation’s top esports recruiters.

Friday marks day one of the 2021 Virtual Esports Combine, powered by Harena Data and Indiana Sports Corp.

Similar to the NFL Combine layout, the goal is to bring top talent under one roof, in Indianapolis, to catch the eye of nearly 150 scouts representing esports collegiate programs and leagues. However, with the pandemic still in play, students will compete and network virtually.

“It’s a growing industry that so many kids and high schoolers are growing up loving how to play esports, and now there are opportunities where you can get a scholarship for it and even really build a career for it as well,” said Brett Kramer, Indiana Sports Corp.

The growing interest continues to reflect in the industry’s worth. Numbers show a nearly 50 percent increase in global esports this year, valued at more than $1 billion.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities are also investing in the industry, including here in Indiana. That’s as several already offer esports-related scholarships and programs.

“Butler University is now building an esports facility. Ball State has already invested in some. The Horizon League, locally, has a collegewide esports league,” Kramer said. “So, it’s growing in popularity, and colleges and universities are finding it very lucrative to be involved with, but at the same time, the same students that love esports are also very good in STEM-related academics.”

The growing interest allows students to continue their education through other avenues besides traditional sports. However, Kramer says students still take away similar values and lessons as they would in a typical sport setting.

“So, if you think about problem-solving, quick-twitch muscles and quick reaction. If you’re working in a team environment, similar as you would with a traditional sport, you’re still getting a lot of those tangible skills that you would get by playing soccer or football. You’re just doing it with a controller in your hands, but you’re still working with other people,” Kramer said.

The virtual combine, Kramer says, not only connects students with potential scholarships but also possibly paves the way to professional opportunities down the road.

“You can go on to be a college esports athlete, and then also in the professional side, Pacers has a Pacers Gaming side,” Kramer said. “So, there are collegiate and professional opportunities in esports, it’s just a matter of getting your name out there, getting noticed by scouts, and really making a name for yourself.”

The virtual combine runs Friday through Sunday. Kramer says registration, which is free, will stay open until 3 p.m. Friday, when the combine starts.

Valorant, League of Legends, and Rocket League are the three games recruiters are looking at. Along with competitions, there are opportunities to network through Zoom workshops and panels. Depending on how well you connect with recruiters, Kramer says students can hear back from scouts as early as next week.

While the combine is open to prospective high school students, Kramer says it’s also open to anyone interested in esports and learning about the industry.

“So even if you’re not quite there on esports, but interested to learn more, the esports combine is a great opportunity to do so,” she said. “Scouts are looking for the nation’s top talent, not just Indiana! So, it’s really up to you, how well you network, how well you get your name out there to really kind of guarantee future opportunities in colleges and potentially even beyond.”

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