Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

Cultivating leadership through competitive play

Andrew Higginson '24 (left) and Noam Larson '26 (right) at U of R's state-of-the-art esports arena

Leadership may not seem synonymous with playing video games, but for sophomore Noam Larson ’26, being Overwatch team captain for U of R’s esports program is all about leadership.

“Taking on the task of responsibility has really shifted something in my mind,” said Noam, who started the fall 2023 semester as team captain. “I have to be responsible for myself, but also other people now. That shift has helped me be more organized and more punctual.”

In addition to smaller class sizes, Noam said he transferred to Redlands for the esports program. Having been on the esports team at his previous institution, he saw Redlands as a new opportunity to find his niche among good people.

“I like to lean on them sometimes,” Noam said about his Overwatch teammates, who have become his community.

He attributes the opportunity for leadership and friendship to Jacob Beach, director, and coach of the esports program. Beach has become a mentor for Larson and has helped cultivate a welcoming community.

“It helps that, in a way, we’re all kind of incoming,” Noam said. “Because most of them (teammates) are freshmen and I’m a transfer, so this is all our first year here. But just having the immediate friendship that we made from the start was pretty solid.”

Beach has been focused on teaching Noam how to be a leader to his team. A skilled Overwatch player himself, Beach is leaning into Noam’s Bulldog potential.  

“The team is all freshmen besides him,” Beach said.  “He already has taken that initiative. It's only one year of seniority, but he's relishing that role. I work with him to keep building that — being the figure that everyone else can follow.”

In addition to Noam, Beach said he recognizes leadership in another transfer student, senior Andrew Higginson ’24. Describing Andrew, a former water polo captain and Division III National Championship winner, Beach said, “[he is] everything that we think represents Bulldogs here on campus.” Pivoting his competitive drive to esports, Andrew has become the In-Game-Leader (IGL) for the program’s Valorant team.

“It’s the complete opposite of spectrums,” Andrew said about captaining both the water polo and Valorant teams.

With water polo, Andrew was tasked with commanding 30 athletes, whereas in esports, that number has drastically been reduced to four. The move to Valorant IGL has been a “welcoming” experience for Andrew from his new and former teammates.

“My (water polo) teammates came and watched a whole match and came to support.,” Andrew said. “It was pretty sweet. The people here are amazing. I definitely fell in love with that atmosphere — in the family that Redlands has created for me, and for a lot of other students, it just is a very welcoming, wholesome school.”

Beach has become a mentor figure to the players he coaches. Already possessing two national title trophies from the National Junior College Athletic Association Esports (NJCAAE), Beach is set on meeting students where they are.

“I try to position myself to help them,” said Beach. “I just like to lead by example. I share my faults, my weaknesses, I talk with them. You get a lot more out of them if you do that. They'll talk. They'll open up. You can learn a lot from them.”

Students wanting to get involved in esports are welcome to visit the arena during open hours (10 a.m. – 10 p.m., seven days a week) or reach out to Beach directly at Jacob_beach@maxtrie.com. Located on campus, the arena is home to the esports program and is a casual use environment that hosts team practices and community events.

Learn more about the exciting opportunities within the esports program website.