NAECAD Interview: Daniel Sportello, Utica University

September 12, 2022

Daniel Sportello is the Director of Esports at Utica University and advocates for ADHD and disabled veterans. He is a motivated, professional, and highly passionate individual who dreams of transforming the world of esports and creating opportunities. 

In an interview with NAECAD, Daniel provides insight into his plans for the esports program at Utica University and the overall experience of esports.

First Semester Goals

What Daniel would want to accomplish this semester as a new Director of Esports is a little different from what most Directors choose as their first semester goals. This is a brand new launch for Utica university, as this is the first time they have had a program like this. They've had a club in the past, but now they're an official Varsity program, building one of the largest initial investment esports arenas in New York.

This is why Daniel has a lot more than many other directors would like to tackle in terms of goals for this first Semester. They are already looking into scholarships and international recruitment. However, where they want to be is where every program wants to be after three or four years. This is to have established a proper structure and to have a few varsity teams competing in different forms of collegiate esports. 

Daniel also notes that they have a fantastic team at the University of Utica. The administration is all for esports, as they are constantly willing to push and support him with anything regarding esports. This is rare, especially in esports, and many people have been scared to take this risk. 

The administration at the university is confident about esports and completely trusts Daniel. This is why he believes they will stand out from many other programs and be able to achieve their goals and so much more.

Measuring Program Success

The way that Daniel measures success is through enrollment and retention. Retention is the big one, as many programs fail because they can't, not necessarily cater, but provide for every esports athlete. This includes anybody in the program that wants to compete in esports.

“The way I see it, I'm just going to keep making rosters. The more people we have, the more rosters we’re going to have, and I'm truly going to do the best of my ability to make sure that everybody involved in the program gets to compete in some way, shape, or form.”

Daniels adds that this is because he doesn’t believe an esports program is necessarily successful if they have people that want to play but aren't playing.

Improving The Overall Experience

As mentioned earlier, the university's esports program is building one of the largest initial investment esports arenas in New York. This is one way they will stand out and improve the overall esports experience. 

The arena is currently under construction, and they are looking for a launch around mid-September. This is already one of the most significant steps that they are taking. However, one of the other steps that Daniel personally tries to tackle is for the esports program to be the best of the best. They want the best to come to Utica, whether it means collegiate students or even professionals. 

Utica also has an AHL hockey stadium called the Adirondack Bank Center. This has the potential to host massive esports events and activities involving professionals. They're a new program and are already aiming high, but they are doing it because they have a whole team ready to go.

Leadership Philosophy

Daniel’s leadership philosophy should be the same all around for every director. The ultimate goal for esports is to be recognized and operated the same way traditional and conventional sports are. Esports are sports, and what Daniel wants for all his athletes is the same thing that any traditional sports coach would. 

“I want them to maintain their physical and mental health, and I want them to maintain their academic standings. I want them to take esports as a priority and not look at it like something that's not a priority.”

He further explains that these are the kind of students he wants to sign on his division one varsity rosters. The ones that look at their esport team the same way the starting quarterback is going to look at his football team. 

Ultimately, everybody's end goal should be to want esports to fall under the umbrella of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). This is because, when that happens, so much success will stem from that in and of itself. 

Director & Coach Advice

Daniel's advice is, in all seriousness, “Don't Be Afraid.” Just go for it because you would be surprised how welcoming and warm the esports industry is. This is mainly for people who have a passion for esports and want to grow and expand the industry.

Daniel explains that if you have an idea that's going to work, you need to get that out there. He has never met somebody in the esports industry that wouldn't be willing to talk to you or help you in any way, shape, or form. This goes for anybody that's trying to be a director. 

Lastly, he adds that he is very receptive to any contact involving expanding yourself or your college within esports because that should be everybody's goal. 

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