Interview with John Cordero, Assumption Esports head coach

Published 3 months ago -


By Caleb White, Online Editor

Beginnings and an opportunity

Since his most formative years, John Cordero was passionate about esports.

Beginning his competitive foray as an avid League of Legends player in 2012, Cordero saw gaming as a chance to connect with friends he had made throughout the years. As he started attending live events such as the LoL Championship Series, though, he began to realize the potential games had not just as socialization, but as true competition. 

Cordero’s most memorable experience as a spectator was seeing the Madison Square Garden match between the ROX Tigers and SK Telecom T1 in 2016. People who heard he had attended would ask him questions about what it was like to see the event live. 

“It really captivated me as, ‘this is legitimate.’ Esports have an absolute huge market to touch on,” he said.

As the president of the former Esports Club, Cordero was a senior when the official esports program was announced in 2019. He recalled the Smash Bros. tournaments they would host at Chuck’s in his undergrad years, which drew over 100 people playing from 8 p.m. to their 2 a.m. closing.

The expansion was highly anticipated by Assumption’s gaming community, though Cordero was disappointed it happened at the tail end of his college years. After the previous head coach, Robert Skinnion, left in May 2021, his old resident director, Brian, was called for the job position. 

“I would like the job, but call John,” he said. “He’s more invested than I am.”

Vision

Going into the job, Cordero had concerns about the viewpoint the administration had on esports, as it was common for other schools to dismiss it as “just video games.” He wanted Assumption to support the esports program for what it could be, instead of a grab to bring in more students. He found support in Christine Lowthert, the athletics director, and Becky Mastrototoro, his direct boss, who both hoped for it to succeed.

“I have a vision for the program, where it has a competitive arc and a community arc,” Cordero said. “I can have a space where my athletes have an area completely to them, where I can focus on them, and a space where it’s just rec time. VR is super cool. Who wouldn’t want to put on the headset and check it out?”

Video games, through their design, have a powerful way of bringing people together. Cordero cited a time the whole football team played in a Smash Bros. tournament he hosted. As the Esports Arena prepares for public reopening, Cordero expressed hope that they can continue towards spring with a community orientation. 

“You got freshmen with seniors, english majors and biology majors, all different people having a good time.”  

Role as a head coach and hopes for the future

As the head coach, Cordero’s work is made up of both mentoring and administration. Due to his expertise in League of Legends, much of his coaching involves working on strategy with their team and what they need to improve upon. For Rocket League and Smash Bros. Ultimate, his focus is more on logistics and communication. 

The teams for Rocket League, League of Legends, and Smash are continually improving, with four of their five teams making it into the ECAC playoffs last season. Depending on their qualifiers performance, there is also an opportunity for the Smash team to compete in the HV Gaming Con in Albany, N.Y., later this year. 

Cordero is currently planning to train student workers to manage and lend out equipment to visitors using an ID system — the Esports Arena’s opening will coincide with their Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament, open to all, which will be hosted on March 11 at 6 p.m.

The ultimate goal for Cordero is continued growth, such as assistant coaches and expansion into more games, which requires the support of administration.

“We have to give the program the attention it deserves so it can be what it wants to be. People are going to come to Assumption for esports if they see that the school is serious about it. And I think they want to be there and we’re going to get there.” 

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