NAECAD Interview: Tyler Schrodt, Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF)

March 14, 2022

Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) is an established national governing body for organized high school and collegiate D-I esports leagues. The National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD) got to sit down with Tyler Schodt, the founder of EFG. They discussed the current state of the EGF, their student-first philosophy, the value that EGF brings at the collegiate and high school levels. Lastly, some advice for universities starting up esports programs.

What is the current state of the EGF?

Tyler Schrodt: “Really amazing. I’m excited to be around for it. We started back in 2013 while I was still a student at RIT. So fast forward almost eight years at this point, we now specifically focus on working with Division One College and universities in our collegiate space. 

We have the privilege of working with Disney and creating a national high school league. And then we recently extended into middle school. So, again, the purpose was to impact and interact with students from middle school age up into their collegiate careers. So that we can look at what the most impactful moments of that journey were for them. Just try to make that as frictionless as we could, whether they were looking at that from the competitive perspective or a career development opportunity.

Now we specialize in the governance side of it. We are running and operating leagues, which we do in partnership with all of our colleges and universities through elected boards and committees and things like that. We’re also making sure students are always involved in those conversations.

At this point, we have just over 55 Division one colleges and universities in our collegiate League, about 850 or so teams at our high school level. And then I think we just hit 100 teams in our middle school space. So pretty excited about where we are in North America and pretty enthusiastic about what will happen next.”

One of the values of the EGF is having a student-first philosophy. Can you speak to how the organization executes this?

Tyler Schrodt: “When we talk about the student first philosophy that was born out of all of our backgrounds in both the management side as well as just our own experiences. When it came to both gaming and traditional athletics, almost everybody in our team was at least a high school athlete at one point or another. And most of us have been involved in gaming somehow, whether a fan or a parent. So for us, we look at it in a couple of different ways.

One is making sure that students are always involved in the decisions around structure and policy. So in that way, we have things like a student Council at the College level where students are directly impacting our policy discussions. The initiatives that they want to see us investing in, and then a significant impact on how we're running competitions.

Then as we extend beyond that, we also look at what was important to us as we were coming up through the system. Ultimately the structure and support that we would have wanted. Then trying to use that as a base for how we're working with students to build the environment and culture that they want.

Many different ways ultimately pan out. But the core mission that we brought to that and all of our universities and high school numbers look at is. That anything that we do commercial, business-wise, or culturally wise has to be in service of ultimately what's going to enrich that student.”

How is the EGF bringing value to the collegiate esports space?

Tyler Schrodt: “In the collegiate space, we specifically focus on division one athletics at universities. So you think about your power five schools, the kind of more prominent schools. So the way we approach that is trying to create a league that is specifically catered to that type of University. That comes with a different level of need or preferences. We try to build it in such a way that provides a powerful competitive experience and make sure that that's predictable. 

You know what your schedule looks like more than a year from the season starting, and make sure that there are many consistent foundational elements. We’re ensuring that our colleges are driving in the direction we're moving.

It's more about how we leverage esports as a platform to celebrate the competitive aspects of gaming and esports. As well as supporting our universities and what they're doing on the academic and research side; how they're using it to engage with student populations that they might have otherwise missed. They were then trying to ensure that there's always a consistent opportunity for students to find work experience. Whether that's getting involved in our broadcast program or some of the other things that we work on to ensure that whatever the next step in their career ultimately is. They've got a good foundation for that to work through.``

How is the EGF bringing value to the high school Esports space?

Tyler Schrodt: “We try to use it as sort of an opportunity to set a precedent for what the chances for a high school student are in the Esports space. But, of course, we don't necessarily anticipate that all of them will go to college and get a scholarship to be on an Esports team. Still, they may find a fascinating opportunity to get involved with anything from game development to broadcast and journalism through Esports. 

So much of our focus is on the high school space. Other than putting on a great League and working with Disney to create National Championships, is to prepare students and expose them to those different career options. So we can allow them to work with some of the schools that are formally adopting esports in different ways. Or if that isn't the case, give them the chance to go out and get some real-life experience. And we want to try to prepare them in the best way possible to be successful.

And then we're also more recently getting more directly involved in the diversity efforts at the high school level. Trying to make sure that similar to the actions in computer science and Stem education that the younger populations. So it's a whole variety of things. But again, the center of all that is how we make sure that the students are in the best position to get the most out of esports.”

What advice would you give universities looking to engage in esports?

Tyler Schrodt: “I think the most important thing for a college as they're starting to think about esports, is to look at what ultimately the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) for the school. Whether it's increasing recruitment, dealing with retention and engagement aspects of it. Or ultimately ways that you can engage with alumni or prepare for the investment that's scaled appropriately to that. 

You must have invested in it and believed in it. You adequately fund the programs and look at them holistically. Whether it's about recruiting new students, whether it's about academic pursuits or otherwise, there's a lot more than they can get out of it. And realizing that ultimately supporting both the staff and students are a part of it is one of the most important things. So think about what they can not only do for their campus population but certainly esports in general.”

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