James Madison esports team joins elite conference

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 9:50 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - At James Madison University, a new sport is on the rise, but looks different than other sports on campus.

The JMU X-Lab is home to the esports team, a competitive group of students who train and compete in online games. The team has officially joined the Eastern College Athletic Conference, giving the Dukes a chance to face other elite players across the country.

“They’re gaining skills like communication and teamwork,” said X-Labs Assistant Director Karris Atkins. “We’re showing them how to apply those skills in their industries.”

According to Atkins, the X-Lab is an inclusive space that welcomes players of all levels. Experienced Dukes practice nearly three hours each day, using mental and physical drills to prepare for matches.

“They take it very seriously. They’re excited to play; you can hear them from down the hall. They become quite involved in their games,” Atkins said.

Senior Shaffee Iskander started gaming at a young age and reached an elite level before joining the Dukes. For him, the digital community offers a supportive and engaging space to meet new players.

“I have ADHD. If I’m invested in a game, a become hyperfocused. I’ve made a lot of friends online; we’re more than just teammates,” said Iskander.

The X-Lab will be soon offer academic courses to supplement live play. These classes will be open to all students as professors work to grow the program.

“All of our students have different perspectives and different strengths. We welcome all of them to join us,” said Atkins.

More information on JMU esports, including courses and upcoming events, can be found here.

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