How one teen’s competitive gaming led him to Georgia Southern

Julia Fechter

While many Georgia Southern students celebrated their graduations at the end of the spring semester, the members of Southern Collegiate Gaming (SCG) were celebrating a different milestone.

The university had just recognized their organization as a club sport.

The SCG members and leadership have been working toward other goals, too. This fall, the organization’s first high school athletic recruit will be attending the university. 

The recruit, Joshua Patierno, is an incoming freshman psychology major from Buford, Georgia. Patierno was recruited to the Rocket League competitive gaming team as its coach.

Qualifications

Rocket League is essentially a soccer video game, except that the game involves teams of cars instead of teams with people, and the cars have rockets attached to them.

Patierno has played minor tournaments, in which he placed third or fourth, as well as in the Rocket League Championship Series, hosted by Psyonix.

He has also played against some of the top Rocket League players in the nation, such as Lachinio, Klassux, Kronovi and Pluto.

“Since we recruited him right out of high school, he will not have to try out for the team, because we know his [skill level] and we’ve recruited him to be on the [Rocket League] team,” Kevin Williams, the executive director of SCG, said.

How Patierno was recruited

Patierno was first introduced to SCG at Momocon 2015, a fan convention held each May in Atlanta, Georgia.

Patierno attended the convention with his brother, Blane Humphries, a 2012 GS graduate. The two were leaving Momocon late one night when they walked past Kevin Williams and other SCG members.

Humphries knew Williams from interacting with him at GS as part of a show choir and also from sharing the same public relations classes. He introduced his brother to the director, and afterwards, Patierno kept in touch with Williams.

“We didn’t really talk about Rocket League until 2016, because the game didn’t come out until the Momocon 2015 went by. I started playing [the game] in December 2015,” Patierno said.

Patierno and Humphries met up with Williams again at Momocon 2016, and Patierno was able to play Rocket League at Momocon.

“Kevin wanted to watch Josh play on the spot, so he did…everybody that was in the area couldn’t take their eyes off of what was happening on the screen,” Humphries said. “That was kind of what made Kevin go, ‘Alright, I want this guy to help out with it.’”

Additionally, Patierno explained that he talked with Williams about how Rocket League was growing as an esports game.

“I kind of offered to help kick start it and get it going. I was like, ‘hey, I can coach it for you guys, and when I get down there, I’ll be on the team’,” Patierno said.

Patierno was officially offered his position on the Rocket League team in September 2016.

Williams described how Patierno’s recruitment has so far impacted the Rocket league team.

“When you hear of a player of Joshua’s caliber coming to Georgia Southern, it really does ignite those who are looking to be a part of a team that’s strong,” Williams said.

He elaborated that while the hype of recruiting Joshua has a done a lot for the team, that hype is not the only factor in the team’s growth.

“Rocket League has had dedicated members who have also been working to develop the team. They’re definitely part of that credit of getting things started with Rocket League,” Williams added.

Coaching responsibilities

Patierno joked that he does not really do the kind of coaching one might see in a movie, where a coach may be strict and loudly yell at players.

“I encourage them to keep pushing themselves. It’s not all about telling them ‘Oh, you need to do this move constantly’. It’s more of like ‘Hey, I see that you’re trying to do this,’” Patierno said. “‘Just keep it up and eventually you’ll get better at it.’”

One of the other things Patierno has been working on with SCG student leadership since he became SCG’s Rocket League coach is that team’s drive to become more self-sufficient. He hopes that the team can eventually do things like independently fundraise for travelling to tournaments.

“We want to be self-sufficient in the fact that when we need something done, we don’t have to go to Kevin and ask him for it…He does so much already,” Patierno added.

Transitioning to college

He admitted that it has been easier for him to transition down to GS from his hometown, since his brother is an alumnus.

“[Humphries] is the person I go to whenever I need to talk to somebody or need guidance. He’s always been there for me,” Patierno said.

Patierno particularly appreciated that guidance when it came to making decisions about college.

Growing up, he and Humphries’ immediate family members did not go to college.

Humphries was the first one in the family to break that pattern, go to a university and graduate from it.

“I guess [having a sibling go to college] motivates you to push yourself to do the same if not better. Sibling rivalry plays a role into that, but so does just the motivation of seeing what they accomplished and feeling proud of it,” Patierno said.

Humphries said, “It was inspiring to know I gave Joshua the confidence to move along that path and not only to continue along it, but follow in my footsteps.”