NAECAD Interview: Christopher Kumke, Independence Community College Esports

November 2, 2021

The National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD) interviewed Christopher Kumke, Esports Director of Independence Community College. A Shenandoah University graduate with a bachelor’s in esports management, Kumke was hired as the school’s newest esports director in March 2021.

Based in the Midwestern United States, Kumke talks about a variety of subjects concerning his esports program. This includes his program’s current state, how he’s building a suitable culture there, and how they promote it away from campus.

What is the current state of Independence Community College Esports?

Christopher Kumke: "The ICC Esports started about six months ago, and as of right now, we have our streaming set up, which is just getting started. We have 20 PCs and a gaming setup area, and also a driving simulator."

"We decided to branch out and do something new because we’re a community college so we actually started doing driving and flying simulators. That’s something that makes us different from other programs. We have a Top 5 Call of Duty program in the nation. That’s cool to have as a community college."

"Next, we are competing in something called NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports). We are a varsity program through that. We are one of about five community colleges in that league. Building from a community college standpoint, it’s a little tough because you try to get the local kids, but for esports, it’s kind of hard to do that so we actually have a lot of international kids."

"A big thing for us is we can bring in these low-income students for cheap and add them on scholarships. It’s a chance to give these students who didn’t really have a chance at DI because it’s 20k per semester to come here and build their brand. So the ICC Esports is a chance where you can build your brand and move on from there and hopefully get another scholarship.”

How are you building a culture and setting standards for your program?

Christopher Kumke: “These students are the ones who really didn’t want to go to a DI or didn’t have enough money to go DI, so they know they have a chance to build their brand. I tell all these students, ‘You make your own future here, you know? I’m going to give you every opportunity to make your future here, but you’re the one who has to capitalize."

"The goal here is for all these students to make their future together, so the culture is sportsmanship and hanging out with each other. Kind of like a family culture of ‘I’ll pat your back if you pat my back,’ so the goal is to help each other out with making your brand so you can go to a DI, DII, or DII on these scholarships to make your own future.”

What is Independence Community College doing to promote the esports program on and off-campus?

Christopher Kumke: “We are actually running events, with the big thing being us going out to recruitment events. We go out to multiple recruitment events every couple of months, and then we try to run these events with 16 other colleges. In my esports one-on-one class, I would actually be hosting a big collegiate event with 16 other colleges and show how big this is compared to football, which is [also] big in the Midwest."

"We are also partnering with our local high school to make that feeder system of letting [their students] use our space, helping their coaches, and bring them to a varsity program at some point through PlayVS or HSEL (High School Esports League). On and off-campus [events that get] the community involved in the program is probably the biggest thing [for a promotion]."

"The one last thing I want to mention is ICC Esports is looking to make a coaching certificate to help these high school coaches who aren’t really certified but are [still] interested in starting esports because it’s such a big and growing industry. That’s kind of how the ICC Esports is trying to expand the community around them on and off the campus: by teaching and running events.”

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