Mid-Plains Community College to offer Esports/shooting sports

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Mid-Plains Community College has added an Esports club and shooting club to its lineup of student organizations this fall.     

Both are anticipated to provide a boost in the recruitment and retention of an untapped pool of students inside and outside of MPCC's 18-county service area. 

"The addition of these clubs sends a message to new and incoming students that we are growing in creative ways and are willing to meet the needs of our region," said Kelly Rippen, MPCC area vice president of student affairs and McCook Community College. "Both of these sports have grown in the past five years, and we are excited to see what impact they will have on our enrollment and engagement as well as how competitive we can be with other colleges." 

The MPCC Esports Club 

The popularity of Esports, a form of online video game competition, has increased substantially throughout MPCC's service area and in other colleges throughout the nation. Many local high schools offer it, and the National Junior College Athletic Association now sanctions it as well.  

COVID played a part in the expanded interest. With public events and activities shut down last year – more people began seeking out entertainment options that could be done at home. Esports competitions are Internet-based, are great for social distancing, don't require travel and are open to all ages. 

"Esports will allow for more diversity in terms of the type of students we can attract to the college," said Taylor Pantenburg, MPCC area database specialist and sponsor for Esports. "Participants don't have to have any sort of athletic background to compete. Starting a club will really open the door to a variety of new activities we can offer students." 

The hope is that gamers might filter into related programs at MPCC such as information technology, graphic design and the applied sciences as they are often well-versed in technology, animation, programming, graphics and other areas that require that type of skill set. 

Those who join the MPCC Esports Club will have the opportunity to network with people around the world. Members will have dedicated practice times and will compete and host gaming tournaments together. 

Esports will be piloted at North Platte Community College where possible designated gaming areas have already been identified. The goal is to roll the club out to other MPCC campuses in the future. 

The MPCC Shooting Club 

The MPCC Shooting Club will likely start out as an area-wide club based on indicated support from throughout MPCC's region. The college wants to utilize the shooting ranges in all of its area communities if possible. 

Rippen said several people have already volunteered to coach if shooting sports is offered at Mid-Plains, and parents from area clubs have also stepped forward to help wherever needed. 

"There's so much momentum for this," Rippen said. "High schools and 4-H clubs in our area often provide shooting sports opportunities for students to compete at the local, state, regional and national levels. When those students graduate and look to engage in college-level learning, they find that the ability to continue in shooting sports is limited." 

Mid-Plains wants to change that by providing opportunities to acquire and develop skills in shooting, competing and hosting shotgun tournaments. 

"We want students to attend MPCC with the ultimate goal of attaining a degree, but a competitive shooting experience may enhance their college experience, provide the support of a team and open up additional scholarship opportunities at the next level," said Rippen. "We have three students in North Platte already who have expressed interest in joining a shooting club and one prospective student from Northeast Nebraska who said if we offer a shooting club, he's definitely coming." 

Mykel Miller, corrections officer for the Lincoln County Detention Center, will be the sponsor for the MPCC Shooting Club. His squad took the state championship in trap his freshman year of high school at Papillion-La Vista South. 

Miller continued with shooting sports at Midland University, in Fremont, – training under Bret Erickson, a four-time Olympian and former coach of the U.S. National Shooting Sports Team. 

During his senior year of college, Miller was part of the shotgun team that won the 2017 ACUI Division II National Championship. Individually, he placed 36th out of 1,256 shooters. 

Miller is excited to be able to share his expertise with Mid-Plains. 

"The best part about shooting sports is definitely the friends and relationships you make," Miller said. "So, it will be good for the students in that regard. I think this club will also help educate the public on the fact that shotgun sports are safe and will bring additional revenue to the college in terms of recruitment. There are a lot of high school students, especially in western Nebraska who are looking to go forward with shooting sports, and the closest schools for that up to this point have been in Hastings, Wyoming and Colorado. Now our local kids have an option closer to home." 

Both traditional and non-traditional students will be able to join the club. If successful, there's the possibility that it could evolve into an area-wide team.