Situated on an idyllic campus setting, offering over 100-degree programs, Robert Morris University-Pittsburgh, has recently entered the ranks of varsity and club esports. And, in doing so, it sought out an individual to not only coach, but one with the insight and acumen to interweave esports into the overall university mission.
They found that individual in Richard Zapp.
Mr. Zapp had a history of success across multiple trading card games over the last 15 years. He ranked within top 10 of multiple games across different seasons. Boasting a gamer tag of “Zappdos” (a reference to both Pokemon, and the fact that his last name is Zapp, and a “Jr” at that), his trading card success propelled Richard to collaborate with a few close friends in developing a professional coaching platform in which fledgling players donate funds to support mentorship, coaching, and content production.
Mindful of the realities of professional gaming, Zapp, sought educational opportunities augmenting the dynamics of gaming. This led him to Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania where he pursued a master’s degree in Higher Education and College Counseling. While there, he worked primarily as a career coach supporting students in their personal development. This counseling background program provided not only the qualifications needed to work towards becoming a licensed professional but gave him the experience needed to develop the infrastructure of a program as aspirational as RMU’s esports initiative.
Asked how he envisions integrating coaching and counseling, Zapp explained: “Very few esports professionals have the academic backgrounds in counseling or higher education that I do - and it will give Robert Morris University an edge when it comes to growing and developing the program. My counseling background has also led into how I approach counseling, and my deep understanding in topics such as mindset, how to efficiently reflect upon footage, and proper training regimens will bring a lot to our players.”
Striving to make RMU the most robust varsity esports divisions in western PA, Zapp hopes to leverage many local and national organizations, always seeking to increase its scope and help incoming players develop into top-level competitors. A special initiative of RMU is inviting area high schoolers onto campus to visit its facility, hoping to educate students and parents alike into the many different academic programs RMU offers, and how gaming can be a part of almost any degree route they choose.
The approach taken by Richard Zapp and Armand Buzzelli, Director of Campus Recreation, at has resulted in meteoric growth. What started with three specific games (League of Legends, Rocket League, and Hearthstone) and a handful of interested players, has blossomed in less than one month to now encompass nearly 10 games with over a dozen dedicated players.
Richard Zapp (left) and Armand Buzzelli (right) of Robert Morris University-Pittsburgh in the school’s new dedicated esports facility.