Alumnus helps Western esports program focus on well-being, level up skills

Contact: Erin Flynn
Several students sit at a row of computers playing video games.

Students participate in game night at Western's Esports Arena.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The esports industry is a booming, billion-dollar business complete with massive global tournaments and a worldwide fan base. And Western Michigan University alumnus Edward Cleland has unlocked the key to competing at the elite level. He will share his secrets to success during a discussion on player health and performance on Friday, Nov. 11, at 6 p.m. in the University's state-of-the-art Esports Arena.

A portrait of Edward Cleland.

Edward Cleland, B.B.A.'04

Cleland, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Western in 2004 before pursuing graduate degrees in holistic health education and mind body medicine, is founder of Mind Body Esports. He specializes in creating wellness paths for optimizing professional esports players, teams and organizations—a skill that has earned him the attention of some of the biggest teams in esports. His company incorporates things like mental wellness—techniques to ease performance anxiety and the mental pressures of performing—as well as communication strategies, nutrition and physical fitness.

"We know we need performance health, especially mental health. If you ask gamers why they won or lost a competition, they tell you their mental health was in a good space or they were the healthiest they've felt," he says. "Everyone's trying to be healthy; everyone's acknowledging it's important to performance."

Having recently ramped competition up to the varsity level in addition to club teams, WMU Esports echoes the importance of holistic health for its student competitors.

"Well-being is a part of the esports program as a whole: learning how to communicate, manage emotions, overcome plateaus and more," says Tavian Napier, assistant director for WMU Esports.

Cleland's discussion will also incorporate how to manage life outside of gaming and optimize the positive aspects of esports.

"Video gaming is supposed to be fun. It's a great opportunity to become a better person, and the science is showing there are definite benefits to it," he says, pointing to a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health that found children who played video games displayed improved working memory and impulse control.

A proud Bronco, Cleland also hopes to make connections with students who aspire to enter the esports industry, whether through business, marketing, game development or performance.

"I could use a few interns," he laughs, expanding on the foundation he built at Western that proved to be a launch pad for success. "I have been an entrepreneur for 16-plus years and met my first business partner through Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity at WMU. What I learned through Haworth College of Business provided the foundation for everything professional I have set out to accomplish over the last 20 years of my life."

Friday's event is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended. More information is available on the event's webpage.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.