How to Cultivate Smash on a College Campus

by Susanna Yu

INTRO TO SLO (California Polytechnic State University, SLO) 

SLO Facebook

The SLO Smash Community Facebook group, established just 9 months ago, consists of 200 members, with new players being added each day. That doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to the Norcal or Socal Melee groups, but for a small city like San Luis Obispo that lies on the central coast of California, it isn’t too bad. Smashfests occur at least once or twice a week, and we even had our own “SloBroke Weeklies” with $1 entry fees happening every weekend before our official SLO Smash Club got established on the Cal Poly SLO campus just two months ago. Over the past year, we’ve hosted 3 large tournaments with about 50 participants each, and many smaller weeklies.

HOW IT STARTED

It wasn’t always this active, and getting to this point wasn’t easy. Just two years ago, there was no sign of any Smash scene at all—the only tournament I ever heard about was for Brawl during my freshman year in the dorms, and it had 11 entrants. I came back to Norcal for the summer of 2013 hoping to start entering Brawl tournaments again, only to find that there were none. The Melee scene, on the other hand, was constantly active and had at least one tournament per week. After participating in tournaments throughout the whole summer like LANhammer and Norcal locals, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to the nonexistent scene in SLO.

Regardless, I tried. In the fall, I started posting in Facebook pages I was involved with, such as cultural clubs and class pages, hoping to find even just one or two people I could practice with during the school year.

“Anyone want to play melee?”

And as simple as that, anywhere from 2-5 people came over at a time to my cramped apartment every week. My roommate was an officer of a club called IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and they hosted LAN parties every quarter. Seeing that so many people actually played Melee even just casually, she suggested including it as an event for the LAN party. I advertised it everywhere on Facebook: my timeline, all the regional groups in California, club pages, class pages—I’m sure it annoyed people. But I didn’t care. In the post, I included a Google form for pre-registration just to get an estimate of the amount of people that wanted to show up. As the day approached and the number of entrants increased, so did my nervousness.

SLO1

IEEE’s LAN party that included DOTA, League of Legends, and Melee

I’ve never TO’d before. The most experience I’ve ever had was hosting Brawl doubles over Wi-fi. I knew how everything was supposed to run due to attending so many tournaments, but nothing could prepare you to run a 50-man tournament alone. What if people didn’t have a good time? Do we have enough setups? Do we even have enough space for the setups? What if people don’t show up? But when you’re so passionate and excited about getting something done, that nervousness can transform into confidence. Wanting it badly enough is the first step. It gave me the drive to honestly just do the best I possibly could, and with the advice from several TO’s from Norcal, I did–the tournament was a success overall. Of course, that didn’t come without difficulties. Challonge (the website used to make the bracket) crashed mid-tournament as I frantically tried to recover the data for 20 minutes. Luckily nothing was lost, and the tournament continued on smoothly onward. That moment of panic taught me something crucial to being a TO—always have a backup file somewhere, whether it be on TioPro or on paper. Being able to coordinate such an event was so rewarding in itself: watching the familiar hype I missed from Norcal, seeing people play friendlies even though they got 0-2′d in tournament. People personally came up to me to thank me afterward, and just those two words made the everything worth it. The time, the stress, the risk.

A small group of players gathered as grand finals ended, and I walked over to hear the discussion. They wanted more: more tournaments and more smashfests. For most of them (me included), this was the first time they have ever seen so many smashers together on campus, and we all wanted a way of keeping in contact. For that reason, we created the SLO Smash Community Facebook group. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come from a group of only 10 members or so, now having expanded 20 times that amount in the matter of just 9 months.

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Grand finals during our second tournament

With enough interest and motivation, this can be done on any high school or college campus.

HOW TO GET STARTED

  1. Collaborate with other clubs and organizations

If it wasn’t for IEEE, we wouldn’t have been able to pull off our first tournament with such a great turnout. They rented out the venue on campus, reserved a section just for Smash, and rented out all the equipment we needed to run the event (power strips, projectors, chairs, tables). By cooperating with established clubs, you get the benefit of their experience and the attention of the public who already know about that club, aka potential members for your club.

  1. Start a Facebook page

This allows smashers to find each other and communicate. Keep the page active with tournaments, carpool setups, streams, and videos.

  1. Start an official Smash club at your school if there isn’t one already

This one’s extremely important. Once your club is official with your school, you’re able to do so much more: rent out a room on campus to have weekly club “meetings” (smashfests, right?), get funds from the school (Cal Poly gives each club $350 for the year to spend), and get your name out to everyone.

  1. Host frequent, small-scale scheduled events at a convenient location

You can have the Facebook page, the official club, and a bunch of smashers—yet still not be successful if there aren’t people willing to actually host the events. For SLO, now that we have our official club, we can just rent out the same room on campus every week for a smashfest. If that’s not possible, find people who are committed to expanding the scene and are able to host regularly.

  1. Always be welcoming to everyone, especially new players

Coming into a new environment for anything is always intimidating. Make it easy for new players by introducing yourself and teaching them what you know. Don’t forget that the younger players will be the future of the local scene after you graduate.

  1. Keep putting in the effort

Your work is never finished. Look for things to improve on, and continue to encourage competition within your scene. Watching our community in SLO grow from scratch was one of the most amazing rewards for all the hours of work we put in, and with enough motivation, I know it can be done anywhere. Difficulties will inevitably come up, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes—they always teach the best lessons.

About the Author

susa

Susanna is currently a nutrition student and tournament organizer for the Smash scene at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She began her Smash journey in Northern California with Brawl in 2008 and started playing Melee competitively in 2013. You can follow her on Twitter @suzQmew and join the San Luis Obispo Smash Community here.

Additional Credits

Credits to Angela Yoeurng (my roommate) for first getting Smash involved with IEEE, Benny Naftali for hosting weeklies and becoming our new club’s president, Dylan Benton for hosting SLObroke Weeklies, Tyger Cohen for expanding and hosting PM, Matt Castillo for always being down to play and help new smashers, Jack Reynolds for always offering TO help, and Colin Mitchell & Ian Smith-Grove for being part of our new club board next year along with Dylan and Benny!

5 thoughts on “How to Cultivate Smash on a College Campus

  1. You don’t know how thankful I am for this. Trying to start a scene at my college this semester, this is exactly what I needed.

  2. I love this article. LET’S GO MELEE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES!

    BibleThump

  3. Amazing article! Shoutouts to our neighbors in Santa Barbara Smash!
    *and Andres =)*

  4. Great read!

    College dorm life in 2006-2007 is where me and many friends got into smash. On the first day of move-in for the school year, we hosted an impromptu melee bracket in our freshmen hall where I served as an RA. We had a few solid players, a bunch of noobs; we were lucky that invariably the residents had enough cubes and tvs to make this happen, and we invariably had a lot of fun. Thinking back, this was the best thing I could have done for the community by providing a natural way to break the ice, establish friendships, and keep the kids out of trouble. This year I’m back in school for the first time in many years, and this piece definitely got me thinking about how to use smash as a vehicle to grow relationships on my new campus (@ UNLV)

    Ty for giving back to the community #gg

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