Esport in the top-ranking business school. Emlyon business school, one of the top French business school announced a few days ago that esport is now an academic lecture – Meeting with their Sports director
KYKLOS: Hello Mickael! I hope you’re well! Thanks for giving us some time to talk about the recent announcement from emlyon. At first, can you introduce yourself and explain what it takes to be the sports director of a great business school?
Mickael: I’ve been working at the school for 7 years now and I was elected Sports director 3 years ago. My job is actually pretty simple: as soon as you hear the word “sport”, I’m in the loop. Either for students, associations linked with companies, even for entrepreneurship in the sports sector or sponsorship for sports brands. It’s quite broad and complex, but that’s interesting!
K: Emlyon business school designed the Sports Maker program, can you walk us through this initiative?
M: The Sports Makers Program must be inclusive and open source, meaning that it involves sports stakeholders who want to belong to a community with a common passion for sports in broad terms as a discipline but also as a way to foster socialization and interactions between people. The community is rooted around 4 pillars:
- Skill upgrade, employability, through a dedicated path,
- Sports and social issues: socialization, gender equality, well-being, disability, from the lenses of a research lab,
- Innovation and disruptive technology, new businesses, social and economic model changes: we carry business projects with companies to help them find new opportunities in the sports area,
- Intellectual property and brainstorming in heterogenous environments: researchers, companies, students, entrepreneurs…
K: But eventually, is it the duty of a business school? It seems like you are exploring different alternatives who are not at first in line with the business school’s usual training.
M: that’s right! However, we are entering a global market where people need training. We are aiming to change society thanks to the sports influence. Today, it’s our first mean, but we could imagine using other ways to come to the same endpoint. Why not include engineering schools in the process as well? We want to bring a solution to allow high-level athletes to perform and also offering them a quality support for their future retirement, which is not the current situation on the French market. Our first goal is training people, we then convert this aim to the sports industry.
K: In this disruptive mindset, emlyon has just announced that your students could now get academic credits attending League of Legends lectures, one of the biggest video games in the world. First, can you explain such a move? Who decided to take such a posture?
M: Exactly, we decided this year to value sports with academic credits, not only physical discipline but also esport with League of Legends. Why? It’s simple, we know that through sports, either physical or mental, our students grow skills and knowledge that they will use in the near future, professionally or not. We then decided to value such a practice. Mr. Bernard BELLETANTE, emlyon’s General Director, fully supports this move because we have to be pioneers to discover new territories, go beyond borders to be tomorrow’s leaders. That’s the reason why we decided to launch esport as a real discipline, like any other sports. On an academic viewpoint, esport is new. We want to be the spokesmen of such a movement doing great things here.
K: And what do student’s parents think about this?
M: Our students are tomorrow’s makers, actually, we didn’t ask what their parents think. The future is not linked to their decision and their children can decide what they want to study. We then want to foster this early-adopters position, but they will always have the choice to follow the trend or not! There is a real consideration to assess in this discipline with instant consumption, individualism, or the search for a quick pleasant feeling. And we want to deal with this!
K: How can you describe properly this new esport program?
M: As of any other sports program, we are launching a weekly lecture with a professional coach who will have to push our students to get better, and to select a competitive team, which will represent the school on different tournaments, at the highest level available. The coach was recruited for his interesting background and his current experience in esport.
The idea is also to have a real esport center where players could gather up and train altogether. It won’t be possible on a short notice, so we will start with an online schedule, even if we hope finding a place soon. The next step is going abroad, on our different campuses with international students, especially in China and India where esport has a great potential. Esport is now the strongest link between our students from different places, and that’s amazing!
K: Mostly, when we talk about esport, people laugh and deny the phenomenon. How do you see this discipline? As a real sport or something completely new?
M: These reluctances actually often come from the traditional sports guys who don’t understand the new digital practices. We want to bridge this gap with education. At emlyon, we already made our point: we want to help new disciplines grow and esport is a thing now! We want to follow the market and our students in this movement.
In my opinion, esport is a completely new thing. I mean, it’s digital, we are breaking the rules, the physical performance is not perceived as it is in traditional sports. Indeed, pro-players train hard to get better and some of them are very famous! They have a real ecosystem around them: coaches, nutrition staff! There are lots of competitions, tournaments online and offline, on a global scale! Esport has succeeded in a few years to become a worldwide discipline where some traditional sports still experience difficulties to broaden like this. It’s fantastic and definitely, we want to surf on such a trend!
K: The project was first induced by the gaming club of the school (Plug & Play), have you already thought about doing this before?
M: To be completely honest, yes it was. We thought about this, but I have to admit that the student’s support made it easier to plan and to organize. They know the market and we wanted to do it properly with their help. We needed them! Being able to use our students’ skills to develop something new was definitely a great deal!
K: It is a strong and obvious sign both for the education industry and for the esport market. What are your ambitions in terms of teaching methods? Entering a market which was often denied by the academic frame.
M: As I said earlier, we are fully entrusted by the director who believes in this progress. Teaching esport is also a way to forecast digital ways to teach other subjects, an opportunity to connect different worlds, our French campuses and the ones in China and India. It is also a good way to partner with worldwide companies or emerging ones who want to act in such a market. Traditional sports are already a window for cultural links but esport is more than that, it is a pioneer in the digital sphere. With esport, the famous tagline from the Olympic Games can also be exceeded: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger). It’s obviously provocative but that’s a fact! Social models are changing, and we want to be and to implement this change.
K: Though, it’s also a message sent to other schools? Would you have something to tell them?
M: If I have only one thing to say… I would say: Join us! We want to be able to organize a student gaming event. Both to show that esport is important but also to show that we care about our student’s passions! Whatever they are!
Esport bears a strong potential on the new generation and it’s our duty to consider all of these!
K: League of Legends is currently your entry point. Do you have other ambition for different games?
M: We first decided to focus on LoL as a first experience. If we reach our goals, we will obviously diversify our team’s portfolio. The idea is to study the potential of different games and launch new line-ups on other games according the demand from the students.
K: There is a large wave of interest for esport from universities, especially in the USA with the creation of student leagues. Do you have any projects towards a similar approach?
M: Actually, we have. The main project for the year to come will be to organize a first French Cup between schools. We already sent the file to the student federation. Once we validate all of this, we will try to push the model internationally even though we know we are not alone on such a project!
K: And imagine tomorrow, you receive an application letter from a pro-gamer who wants to learn Management and perform on his game. Would you be ready to welcome him here?
M: For sure! Definitely! He can come straight ahead, and he will be very welcome! We would be pleased to welcome pro-players as soon as possible, in order to help them perform in their gaming and in their education.
K: Awesome! Thanks a lot, Mickael! It’s great to hear such things from you and from the school! We wish you the best of luck in this project! And we hope we could shoulder you to deploy your League of Legends team!
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