Latte Esports President Ken San Nicolas, a longtime content creator for a local media company and a former matchmaker for Pacific Xtreme Combat, has signed on with the University of Guam to run its esports program.

While his nose for news and passion for pugilism remain tightly woven in his core being, the new management position will afford San Nicolas the opportunity to help the program gain recognition on a global scale.

In a recent interview with the Guam Sports Network, San Nicolas shared some details and strategies for UOG’s growing electronic gaming program.

Q: What is your official title and what does your new job entail?

A:  Making the move to the University of Guam was a big step that I contemplated for some time before accepting. The University’s faith in esports and its support of a collegiate program was a driving factor of me pursuing the position as esports manager.

The job entails ensuring the success, growth and development of the program at every level. This can range from the day-to-day tasks directly with the students, like athlete recruitment, training, intercollegiate match scheduling etc., ... to longer-term developmental projects like the buildout of a permanent esports arena or space on campus, creation of an esports industry-focused curriculum for the athletes, event management and organization, and, of course, procuring funding for the program through sponsors, grants, donations and events.

Q: (Colleges around the world are offering scholarships to esports athletes). What does it mean to you that you can provide that same benefit to Guam’s local esports athletes?

A: First, I’d like to recognize John Wiglesworth, who was the former esports coordinator and was the one who fought tooth and nail to get scholarships for the athletes. That said, it’s a huge help.

A college education is vital, and any savings that a student can get towards their tuition costs helps. Additionally, the esports program at Triton Esports is not easy. It demands 20-plus hours a week from the athletes — less than half of those hours being actual in-game training. They are required to work out twice a week with their physical fitness coach, they are required to see their mental health coach every other week, they study tape or replays, have practice sessions that are just data review and communication focused, etc. It is a lot. Providing a small scholarship stipend as a reward is a small token of our appreciation to the program. Currently, that amount is competitive among our peers in other esports programs. However, I’d hope that, in years to come, we’d be able to offer larger scholarships to more athletes. It is certainly on my radar, but, of course, the output must match that financial commitment.

Q: How do you bridge what you’ve been doing at Latte Esports with what you’re going to be doing with UOG?

A: I created Latte Esports with esports integration into education in mind. I’m a firm believer that competition and teams teach vital characteristics and skills that the traditional classroom cannot do efficiently. I’m talking about accountability, teamwork, communication, responsibility, humility, losing with dignity and celebrating with grace. Sports teaches those things - in my opinion, better than any other platform. That’s why they are vital at every level of education. Esports is no different and can appeal to a demographic of participants that could be larger.

I’m quite familiar with event management and tournament organization as I’ve done those things for years. So, in those aspects, the transition will be relatively straightforward. With Latte Esports, most of my focus was (on) recreational teams, as well as high school team-focused. College is a natural progression of that. I hope that the community of student gamers we’ve built on island will continue to pursue their passions and continue to participate in esports after high school and with Triton Esports.

Esports itself is the medium which an institution should use to introduce students to other opportunities. Esports provides a unique gateway to a wealth of opportunity post-college that players may not know about. There are not only jobs in the esports industry, but jobs in other industries that could fully utilize the knowledge, skills and abilities attained from a developed esports program. Athletes can obviously succeed as a pro athlete, but there is more out there. They could work in production, technical directing, broadcasting, be a commentator or analyst, be an event organizer, etc. Esports is not the only industry that utilizes these jobs. 

Q: What are some of the big events you have got lined up for 2022?

A: Naturally, our athletes will compete versus the best collegiate esports programs in the nation under the National Association of Collegiate Esports banner. Just this past Monday, four of our athletes competed in the (NACE) National Final for Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Four athletes from UOG were recognized among the top 32 in the nation in that final! It’s an incredible feat, especially with the latter part of 2021 being the program’s official induction into the National Association of Collegiate Esports. The new NACE season has begun, so, starting this week, the athletes are back at it, hoping to improve on their experience in CS (Counter-Strike):Go, Smash, and League of Legends. 

Locally, the athletes and staff of the program have events for the community planned. In March, we will host an esports tournament every week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the University of Guam. A Charter Month, if you will. This will consist of four weekends of esports content free for all on island to participate in or spectate. 

In the summer, we are in the early planning phases of an esports boot camp – a 2-to-3-week-long summer camp for middle and high school students. This camp will consist of technical skill development of several popular titles on island but will also entail leadership training courtesy of the National Guard. A portion of every day will be devoted to teaching these minors how to do the fundamental functions of an esports event. This will range from how to create a bracket, how to set up and operate a Twitch stream, basic principles of esports commentary and casting, project planning and time management, and other topics. The final days of the camp will culminate with a few tournaments run by the camp attendees themselves. Due to the nature of COVID (the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus), I can’t guarantee that an in-person camp of this nature will happen, but we are strongly pushing for this.

The tail end of the year will have much of the same. Another four weeks of tournaments in November and the 2nd Annual Island Esports Awards in December. 

As always, interested viewers can catch our athletes and the tournaments we host at https://www.twitch.tv/uogtritonesports.

On the recreational side,  Latte Esports has scheduled dates for the entirety of 2022. Depending on where the development of local esports is at the middle and high school level, Latte Esports may host a free series of events for that particular student demographic. 

However, I have high hopes that we will see an official esports calendar for high schools by the time the next school year begins. 

Q: If there’s anything more you would like to add, feel free.

A: I feel like I’ve rambled quite a bit and it’s only because I know that esports is on the cusp of seeing a huge spike in growth locally. I urge any student at the middle school or high school level who wants to participate in esports for their institution to be assertive and take initiative. Make your voice heard with your athletic directors, go out and be a part of your school’s gaming club or esports club, or form one if it doesn’t exist. Let your administration know that you are passionate about being a part of that.

For those who are attending college or are on the fence about whether they should enroll or not, if esports is in your interests, reach out to us. Check us out on Discord or watch streams of Triton Esports. The program is one of a kind and is meant to enhance and assist your college experience. Let us be a part of that pivotal journey in your lives.

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