James Madison’s esports team joins elite conference

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – At James Madison University, a new sport is on the rise, but it’s different from 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 officially joined the Eastern College Athletic Conference, giving the Dukes a chance to compete against other elite players across the country.

“They learn skills like communication and teamwork,” said Karris Atkins, deputy director of X-Labs. “We show them how to apply these skills in their industries.

According to Atkins, the X-Lab is an inclusive space that welcomes players of all skill levels. The experienced Dukes train nearly three hours a day, using mental and physical exercises to prepare for matches.

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

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

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

The X-Lab will soon be offering academic courses to complement the live game. These classes will be open to all students while faculty work to develop the program.

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

More information about JMU esports, including classes and upcoming events, can be found here.

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