How to Break Through as a Professional Gamer
Some Tips on What You Can Do to Further Your Esports Career
Parenting is hard.
Ask any mother or father you know (including my own) and they will tell you that the challenges of parenting can be daunting, the tantrums are frustrating, and the occasional argument is draining.
But the rewards make it all worth it. And when your kid is about to become one of the biggest stars in eSports, every single one of those things is magnified exponentially.
Larry and Laura Lehr are the parents of Chris “Simp” Lehr, the 18-year-old phenomenon that just busted the world of Call of Duty wide open. Simp’s parents have continually experienced the unique benefits and dilemmas of having a teenage son who is juggling the completion of high school while devoting countless hours of work and travel to his eSports career.
Given that Simp’s parents often had to learn on the fly, they have been generous enough to provide some advice for parents of the upcoming generation of eSports superstars.
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According to Larry and Laura, Simp has always been a gamer. The youngest of eight grandchildren, when the rest of his cousins would crowd around the television and turn on a console, Simp would pick up a controller and sit in the back. Regardless of whether his controller was plugged in (it usually wasn’t), Simp would move his hands around the controller and join in on the fun every time.
During his childhood, Simp always had a controller in his hand. Many nights, his parents would discover him still playing as late as 2AM. Getting Simp to put down the controller and go to sleep was always a struggle.
This was before they realized how skilled Simp truly was.
As Simp continued to improve, he wanted to be a part of the competitive scene outside of his own house. Having chosen Call of Duty as his specialty, Simp asked his parents to take him to his first tournament.
Simp’s parents had a family party to attend the day he asked, so his brother volunteered to drive him to the Palisades Mall in New Jersey at 9 a.m. that morning. Larry and Laura didn't arrive at the mall until 8 p.m. to relieve Simp’s brother.
After sitting in the mall until 4 a.m., the three of them made the drive back to Long Island. All were exhausted, but one of them had taken home the overall victory.
He didn’t realize it yet, but this would be the first of many more trips to come for Larry.
To compete in tournaments, the two of them would travel throughout the northeast together, all while Simp was still attending classes as a full-time student. While each tournament was unique, two things about these trips were almost always the same for Simp.
First, in each event, Simp would be one of the youngest players, if not the youngest, competing.
Second, by the end of each event, Simp would typically be the one to walk away with the trophy.
As many parents express, Simp’s parents felt concerned that the time he spent gaming would cause his schoolwork to suffer. But once Simp’s Call of Duty schedule began to interfere with schooling hours, they approached the school with a new plan that allowed Simp to continue doing both simultaneously.
Oceanside High School, where Simp recently finished his last final exam, was open to the plan the Lehrs proposed after realizing Simp’s grades hadn’t taken a hit during his rise to stardom. Because his grades had remained solid, Oceanside was shocked to learn about Simp’s ridiculous schedule up until that point.
Finally, the decision of what to do after graduation approached. After weighing all of their options and recognizing how dominant of a gamer he was, Simp’s parents agreed to let him forego college for the chance to become a professional, always remembering that college would be an option if need be.
Plus, the fact that Simp earned almost a full year’s tuition playing video games before he even turned 18 put his parents’ minds more at ease.
One of the biggest hurdles for Larry and Laura was the fact that they simply did not understand the world of eSports. In a lot of ways, it is comparable to being the parents of a highly touted football or basketball prospect. But there are so many aspects of gaming that make things different than that more traditional path.
The Lehrs understood that in order to help their son succeed in this new and confusing world, they would have to learn and adapt.
And that’s exactly what they did.
When Simp was younger, he created his own brand, and his exceptional gameplay brought lots of different eSports organizations to the door. But the fact was that if a company wanted to collaborate with Simp, it had to be approved by his parents first.
As roster spots and deals were offered to Simp, Laura and Larry made sure the people who came knocking truly had the best interests of their son at heart.
When eUnited, Simp’s current team, first approached the Lehrs, there was an extensive research and vetting process that had to be done before Simp would sign on the dotted line.
Larry had several conversations with the General Manager of the team, Matthew Potthoff, while Simp was still a traveling free agent, and only after this were Mom and Dad willing to entrust their son with the organization.
There was also work to be done by both parents to understand what competitive gaming was all about. For the volunteer firefighter and beauty industry professional, there were articles to read, analysis to watch and a crash course in video games that had to be learned quickly.
But being the supportive parents they are, Larry and Laura were up for the tasks every step of the way.
For Larry and Laura, the atmosphere of it all is breathtaking. Walking into a massive arena hearing people yelling and chanting their son’s name is almost indescribable. They can’t speak enough about how much their son enjoys the spotlight. When he is in it, he shines like only Simp can.
At this point, Larry and Laura have become experienced veterans with knowledge to pass along to the next generation of parents, who will be filled with many questions to ask.
Larry makes a point of talking to parents he sees at tournaments who are concerned, attempting to pass on some wisdom and trying to relieve any fear or apprehension.
Even when the Lehrs are back home, Call of Duty is a massive part of the family’s schedule. Larry turns on all of his son’s matches in the firehouse where he volunteers, and the other firefighters have now become big eSports fans, even if Larry has to explain what’s going on sometimes.
Laura follows Simp’s career very closely as well. Even though it can be different to be a parent of an eSports athlete, she still has all the same concerns as any mother who sends their son off into the world.
Is he getting enough sleep? Is he taking his vitamins? Is he making friends?
And yet, Laura understands how Simp has worked for this moment and recognizes that he is as well-prepared as possible for this new and exciting chapter of his life.
At this moment, Simp is reaching a point where his game is at the highest level of the sport, and his parents couldn’t be prouder. Larry and Laura have had the unique pleasure of watching Simp evolve from a kid on the floor in front of the TV to become a dominant phenom known all over the world.
As Simp attracts more attention and offers and continues to get better, he will never forget the people that have guided him to this point.
He will always remember the countless hours he and his father spent driving to events, and he knows that with every match he plays, his mother is at home, nervously pacing the floor of the living room, hoping her son and the team will pull out the victory.
Simp continues his career during this season of the Call of Duty World League by playing for eUnited, and he is currently getting ready for the upcoming league playoffs later this summer.
But no matter where his career takes him, Simp will always have an endless amount of love and support back in Long Island. And Larry and Laura now get to sit back and watch as their son continues to live his dream.
And that dream is taking on all comers and proving himself as a Call of Duty superstar.
He’s well on his way. But he’s never alone.
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