Matthew King was named as the first Manager of Esports at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) in September 2021. For the past four years, King has been working in the collegiate esports industry, and he has consulted with multiple universities in the US about developing esports programs.
In an interview with NAECAD, King speaks on the state of NJCAAE, their key projects, member support, and how they relate with key stakeholders.
The NJCAAE started in 2019, and this is the fourth fall season that they are prepping for right now. They have seen significant progress over these past few seasons and grew from 12 members in 2019 to 130 in Spring 2022.
King states that the NJCAAE is projected to continue growing this season.
“We've grown in not only memberships but our partnerships and how we work with our members. The Discord server has grown quite a bit, and we have a lot of students involved. We're also now getting intern positions going, which is great for us and some of our students and potential alumni as well.”
On top of this, the NJCAAE has grown its game offerings as well. They now have 15 games going into fall and more exciting announcements coming in as the summer ends, including adding iRacing opportunities. With help from great partners and members, King says that the association has seen a lot of progress over the years. .
In addition to growing the membership, King explains that the NJCAAE has several internal projects they are working on. They plan to expand their offerings outside their games and are building out more event opportunities.
There is a project that they recently beta tested and are now bringing it into operation this fall season. This project is known as the intramural option which allows anybody on campus to have the opportunity to participate in the esports activities throughout the year. .
This will also be NJCAAE’s first season of bringing in a competitive split that hasn't been seen within collegiate esports yet. King mentions that they have an invitational and an open level of competition accessible to all schools. The Open is a friendly option for new schools looking to learn the ropes, while the Invitational option is a more competitive form of esports activity.
“We always look at expanding the games we offer to our membership and making Partnerships with the developers as we can. There are a lot of exciting initiatives based around that, and iRacing is something that's really interesting that we have coming along.”
The NJCAA supports its members in multiple ways. King says that one way is that the association was built to focus on self-governance through membership. This means that members have a lot of input on the direction the association takes.
They ask the committees and the membership at large before making any significant decisions. This is because it affects them, and NJCAAE wants to ensure they serve the members to the best of their ability. Beyond that, they also always look for partnerships and sponsorships that they can grab to help the members.
“We're really looking at expanding our development offerings for them. These are things that would help them understand how to develop their programs.”
Realistically, King does a lot of the operations within the association. He also has many conversations with existing and new members on the development and what they can do for their esports programs.
Kings states that they are looking for partnerships and have collaborated with many special interest groups. These partners may or may not be directly related to esports. The plan is to utilize these partnerships to help NJCAAE distribute educational content and esports-related information to internal and external stakeholders.
“Whenever I'm onboarding members, a lot of what I do is education to administrators of what esports is. Yes, we cover the association and what we do, but that turns into a smaller portion of the overall conversation with these institutions.”
King goes deep into what institutions can do to get started and begin supporting their students through collegiate esports activity. He thinks that helping the institutions understand how to engage their students interested in gaming and esports is the bigger picture to serving the association’s membership.