The loneliness of the Junior College esports coach

The school’s hiring board, he explained, did not believe they had enough data to determine the usefulness of the esports program for the college. So that couldn’t justify offering Marquer a full-time coaching job, or any kind of increased pay. His $15,000 a year contract would be automatically renewed in early June and they would try to have another conversation about his future in the spring of 2023. The process was over, the decision was final.

Marquer was baffled, not least because of something he had noticed while driving around campus that day. The huge electronic sign outside the main entrance carried a message that read: “CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ESPORTS TEAM. NJCAAE CALL OF DUTY: NATIONAL WARZONE CHAMPIONS.

In the months that I had spoken to Marquer, he had assured me time and time again that he was confident he would coach the Golden Eagles for years to come. He wanted to hold on because of his connection to Wyoming, a place he loves so much that he has its state flower, the Indian brush, tattooed on his left shin. “I know there’s a massive exodus of young people out of this state,” Marquer told me over coffee in February. “I want more young people to stay here. I’m very proud of the people who are here, and I know the players are good, especially because it’s so cold. So I just know I can build it from here. But the school’s indifference to his dedication and financial desperation had finally become too much to bear. As much as he wanted to be a rock for Wyoming players, he couldn’t do it anymore.

When Marquer informed his athletes of his impending departure, they were puzzled that the school had such low respect for a coach who had changed the course of their lives. “I was a little shocked that they didn’t try to give him some form of recognition,” says Travis Jones. “But I’m happy for him, because it means he will get what he deserves. He deserves to be paid. The college hasn’t told the team about its plans, and it’s unclear if it will hire a new coach in time to recruit new talent for the fall. In the absence of direction from above, Jones assumed full responsibility for the Avant-garde team: He has organized a busy summer schedule filled with training and tournaments, in which he will integrate while working as a DoorDash pilot and assembling his sixth homebrew PC.

The last time I spoke to Marquer about his plans, he was driving his girlfriend’s band to a concert in Casper. Marquer has also returned to playing music himself, holding guitar and drums respectively in two bands called Dirt Sucker and Stay Awhile. (The latter is named after the catchphrase of an important video game character from the early 2000s Diablo 2.)

From the road, Marquer told me that after much deliberation, he was leaning towards finding another job in high school or college esports outside of Wyoming. “It’s an amazing opportunity to be on the front lines of something that I’m blessed to experience,” he said. He and his girlfriend are ready to move out of state, and they’ve talked about starting a family in the not-too-distant future. So he plans to look for a coaching job in a place where they could one day afford a home. Based on his initial perusal of job boards, there are plenty of openings for those wanting to move to remote locations: He says he’s found an opening in rural Wisconsin, for example, that offers a starting salary $5,000 per month. With so many possible paths ahead of him, Marquer’s future is looking, for the first time in a long time, more than it seemed.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue. Subscribe now.

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