NAECAD Interview: Kyle Soo Hoo, American Video Game League (AVGL)

September 1, 2021

The American Video Game League (AVGL) offers support, education and scholarships to schools across the U.S. that want to start or maintain an esports program in their area. The AVGL is owned by BoomTV, which helps high school esports and creator communities grow through the BoomTV platform. In the last year over 6,000 high schools and colleges have participated in AVGL events. NAECAD sat down with AVGL’s High School Esports Program Manager, Kyle Soo Hoo, to find out how students, parents and school administrators can benefit from the programs offered.

NAECAD: Can you tell us more about AVGL and its impact on esports?

Kyle Soo Hoo: AVGL launched about six years ago out of Boston, Massachusetts, and was the first league to host esports leagues and tournaments over there for college students. Since then, we’ve hosted several events from Smite to Warzone to anything you can think of, each attached to a scholarship prize pool. We’ve invested a lot of time and dedication to the collegiate side, and as of 2020, started to look into the high school space and help students into college. Intel Inspires is one of the most recent programs that we launched in 2020 and we’d say is the epitome of what we do to impact student gamers. Intel Inspires is our high school to college pipeline where we offer $250,000 in scholarships through tournaments and honorary scholarships, where over 200 college recruiters watch the online matches. It’s coming up in November again with another $250,000 in scholarships available from recruiters, us, partners and video applicants. It’s our way of giving a chance to those who might not be in the top 1%. Just because you’re an average player doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the opportunity to earn an esports scholarship.

NAECAD: How does the AVGL help high school students with career advancement opportunities?

Kyle Soo Hoo: This one is very personal to me. Everything I do is very student-focused. From a career advancement standpoint, we run a program called Student Leaders. I think this is the most hands-on way I can engage with students. What I do is work with students to empower something they’re already doing or help them find a way into the esports space. One of my Student Leaders, Brandon, started off as a tournament organizer. Eventually, we grew to a point in the relationship where I could help him actually engage in production. He’s a very talented student. Now he runs a studio all on his own that does production for us and other companies that reach out to him, such as Version1. And it all started when he expressed interest in learning tournament organization. Another example is Katie - she had the goal of starting a podcast. Now, these students learn how to engage with audiences, track their metrics and learn how to grow. We’ve let a few students get hands-on with our Instagram, too. Another student, Anthony, was interested in tournament relations and getting schools together. We put on a VALORANT tournament this summer, and alone this student got 77 teams to play. That was over 200 players he recruited on his own — we just showed him how to execute the tournament.  Of course, we can help people to become pro esports players, but that only happens to the top 1%. What happens to the other 99%?

NAECAD: How does the AVGL educate and engage with high school parents, teachers and administrators?

Kyle Soo Hoo: It varies by group. For teachers and administrators, there are two categories — those who engage in esports and those who do not. For those who do not, we try to educate them in the space. Most of them know how to teach things like “don’t be toxic,” how to be on time, etc. but what they don’t know is the game. We try to help them understand the games and what they’re teaching more from a technical standpoint. For those who are already engaged with esports, we maintain an active relationship. We always try to actively engage our teachers and administrators. I am in Discord DMs with 90% of them all the time. We have a direct feedback loop between directors and teachers because it’s important to understand what games are possible. As we know, League of Legends has certain exclusivity, and that it causes certain problems for schools to engage in certain games. I talk to schools to help them find similar games that teach the same kind of skills you want. There is no size fits all. Engaging with teachers, administrators and parents is all about being flexible and knowing which category they fit into and what we can do to help. This year’s Intel Inspires will offer several panels and topics for K-12 to learn about things like inclusivity in esports, how to coach, how to start a program from scratch, etc.

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