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AV Technology Staff

Meet Helen Adams, a Bold and Confident Manager of a Top Ten Collegiate Esports Team

Meet Helen Adams, a Bold and Confident Manager of a Top Ten Collegiate Esports Team.

The main campus of Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem comprises a collection of contemporary buildings just west of the Wasatch Mountains, creating a stunning backdrop mirrored in the school's many reflecting ponds.

It's also the home of one of the most successful esports programs.

Helen Adams is a student at UVU and the Apex Legends manager and coach for UVU Esports. "I started at UVU not even knowing that organized esports existed," she said. Adams walked by a booth that the esports team had set up as a recruiting tool and immediately recognized a character from one of her favorite titles. "I thought, 'Oh my, I know who that is,' and that's when I realized this was a thing."

Adams is incredibly busy, splitting time between classes and helping run a powerhouse gaming team. "With enough coffee in the morning, I think anything is possible," she recently told the UVU student paper, the UVU Review.

(Image credit: Utah Valley University )

Esports with Built-In Inclusivity

That coffee-driven motivation is becoming critical, especially now that esports is on a spectacular trajectory. "The pandemic really drove this explosion of growth," said Adams. "Everybody was at home. And what else are you going to do except play video games with your friends?"

Another aspect of esports success is its inclusivity, especially regarding programs like those at UVU. "We've built up quite a community," said Adams, noting that the organization includes both competitive and non-competitive gamers. "We have 2,200 members. We're the biggest organization at UVU currently bigger than soccer, bigger than volleyball, wrestling, everything." 

The difference is that "esports" is an umbrella term that covers a variety of teams playing different games. "We have ten different titles that compete nationally, including mine." Adams' team includes three levels of play: varsity, JV, and a developmental team. Their success is undeniable: "This past year, we were number seven in the nation," Adams said.

There's another aspect of esports: It's a great vehicle for fostering social contact, especially for students who are likely on their own for the first time in their lives. "I was kind of a loner, especially during COVID," Adams explained. "This community just kind of shoves everybody together with similar interests."

Those interests go well beyond a favorite game. "You wind up connecting with people who might be taking the same classes or studying the same major as you," Adams noted. "People help each other with homework, and study groups are being formed. I met my best friend on campus through this program."

One part of Adams's responsibilities is outreach. She draws from her initial experience and informs prospective students that a robust esports program is already in place at UVU. "We've started a huge program with the Ken Garff Automotive Group, and they're helping us market to Utah high schools," she said. The company owns dealerships in eight Western states and sponsors the NBA's Utah Jazz.

With Ken Garff's help, UVU held its annual event in December 2023, a tournament that draws high school gamers from across the region. A big event holds its specific charms, said Adams: "Let's face it, there's a lot of gamers who tend to be loners like I was. When kids come to these events and see how many like-minded people are out there—well, that's where conversations and friendships start."

One of Adams' other priorities is integrating the program with courses and majors that translate into experience in various related fields. "That's been my 'baby project' for the past year and a half: scholarship integration and internship integration into fields that surround the gaming environment or the gaming sphere, whether that be coding, concept design, computer sciences, and even things that might not seem readily apparent, like voice acting and management."

The UVU esports facility itself is a recruiting tool as well. "The Crestron systems we have are super easy to use," said Adams. "My dad, who's a biology professor at BYU, mentioned that when he found out we were using Crestron: 'I never have to futz around with that stuff in the classroom,' he said. It just works."

(Image credit: Utah Valley University )

Women in Esports

Another aspect of the UVU program's inclusivity that Adams finds especially important is the acceptance and fostering of women gamers. "Another thing that I absolutely love about our community is that we have a zero-discrimination policy. For a lot of girls gaming, you don't always feel welcome being a girl and playing these games." In the case of the UVU program, however, the culture that's been developed is one that "has her back," Adams said. "That's something that you don't always see in the gaming community as a whole. Being able to build that here for us has been awesome."

Adams' experiences have also led her to work with UVU's Women's Success Center, a part of the university whose programs are built specifically to help women succeed in their academic careers. "My goal is to further integrate scholarships for women who are moving into the gaming field and then extend that outreach to offer opportunities in all of those majors that connect to the esports world," Adams added.

To that end, Adams picked up a university-sponsored invite to the annual Silicon Slopes Summit, a Utah-based business and tech event, which helped her gather intel on the scholarships and internships available from the attending companies. It also allowed her to ditch her usual "hoodies and sweats" attire for business duds. "That was nice, frankly."

Influence of Esports After Graduation

Crestron Equipment on the UVU Campus
(Image credit: Utah Valley University )

Crestron DM NVX AV-over-IP technology

Crestron Control 

Crestron DigitalMedia 

Crestron Flex

Crestron touch screens 

Crestron room scheduling

Adams' experiences in esports while at UVU have led her in a direction that will take her into other aspects of the gaming world after graduation, focused on creating and nurturing more opportunities for women in the esports field. Those goals were cemented by a recent court case that's created huge ripples in the gaming world. "I think, honestly, a huge turning point for me was reading the Blizzard versus California lawsuit," said Adams. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Activision Blizzard lawsuit alleges that Blizzard had created an environment that allowed and encouraged the sexual harassment of women employees.

Reading the documents relevant to the case was eye-opening for Adams. "That really kick-started what I wanted to do career-wise," she said. "It's made me realize I wanted to pursue an HR position or even look at women's civil litigation and go to law school right after I finish at UVU." 

Adams wants to continue her involvement with esports as a post-graduate and career goal. "Whether that's coding or broadcasting or even professional competition, I want to move into a job within these gaming organizations to ensure that these opportunities and doors are open for women moving into the industry," she concluded.

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