Kenny Vaccaro is best known to football fans as the former goaltender for the Texas Longhorns, New Orleans Saints, and Tennessee Titans. And while still as competitive as ever, the 31-year-old is now part of a very different team. As the co-founder of a professional esports organization known as “Gamers First” (or “G1”), run from his headquarters and gym in Austin, Texas, the athlete-turned- pro-gamer takes the lessons he learned on the football field. and apply them to the virtual arena.
M&F spoke to Kenny Vaccaro to find out how his experience as an elite athlete gives G1 the edge over rival teams and quickly discovered that physical training is key to developing mental discipline in elite players. , especially when the pressure is high.
Why do you think so many athletes enjoy playing games and esports?
I believe athletes love the game because it has become just as competitive as traditional sports. For many athletes, it’s also a natural escape where you can focus on the task at hand and just compete like with football or basketball.
What were your first consoles and games?
I’ve been a player for even longer than I’ve played football, and I’ve always considered myself a player first, which inspired the name of our organization. When I was a kid, we didn’t have much growing up, so play became my therapy. I vividly remember receiving my first Nintendo Game Boy in black and white! I played “Donkey Kong”, “Super Mario Bros” and “RuneScape” with my brother. “Snake” and “Brick Breaker” were the two games I had on my very first cell phone. I started getting more competitive with games once split-screen shooters became popular and then my friends would get together and play “Halo”, “Call of Duty”, and “Grand Theft Auto”. Halo is still my favorite to this day!
Do you think your athletic background makes you wired for the game because you have hands-on experience thinking about strategy under pressure?
Absolutely! On the field, there is an indescribable bond that athletes form with their teammates. I want G1 to have the same sense of community as me, where they are able to know what their teammate is thinking and anticipate what their next move will be. And, because I was playing defense in football, I was really aggressive. That competitive soccer mentality is something I brought to esports. High performance training is a big part of our mission, and that’s why we’re based at The Kollective; our fitness club in Austin, TX. We have created an environment that promotes positive mental and physical health. What sets G1 apart from other esports organizations is that we have a team physiotherapist, providing game-specific protocol for players.
You retired from professional football last year and immediately started G1. Are you proud of what you’ve accomplished in the gaming world in such a short time?
One of my best friends, Jeremy Hills, and I had always wanted to open our own gym. He coached me throughout my time in the NFL, and then the opportunity finally came, about a year ago, with us, we found a location at South Congress. Our “Halo” team and our new “Rocket League” team consist of eight members in total, including two head coaches, whose ages range from 17 to 30 years old. I have definitely made it a priority for them to stay physically active and push them to train with me every morning. They have all seen a difference with their own game performance since implementing these workouts and spending time with our physiotherapist.
What gaming achievements are you most proud of so far?
In May, G1 won the Halo Championship Series, Kansas City, 2022 “Astro Breakout Team Award”. We also participated in the Halo Championship Series Orlando Major, in September, where we placed 8th among other nationally ranked esports teams. We have posted videos on our Youtube channel. We then qualified for the HCS (Halo) World Championship in Seattle, so it was a truly amazing journey considering we only officially launched G1 at the end of 2021. Our team gave everything to advance more faster than most. I’m proud of the things I’ve been able to accomplish with my team. We’ve managed to create an amazing culture within the company, all in less than a year, with many more to come.
Men don’t often open up and talk about their feelings. Does having a culture like yours, which is essentially a “brotherhood” of the game, help that?
One hundred percent. A lot of times the people you play with, you’ll talk to them more than anyone, really, because you’ll be with them for more than eight hours straight. I got to know people on a deep level through online games before I even met them in person.
Gamers often stay up to play late and their sleep quality can suffer. It is something that can be bad for our health. How important is it to step away from the screen once in a while?
With the late hours, gaming can exhaust you physically and mentally, but when I started incorporating physical training, my streaming and gaming abilities were dramatically increased. There is a representation that the game is lazy, but it’s actually very tiring and taxing on the mind, so you need to be able to clear your mind by spending energy elsewhere, which will help increase your cognitive performance. Exercise is good for your physical and mental health. The endorphins released during a workout prepare your body for a long gaming session. You can then resume gaming with a clear mind after generating those endorphins, and this approach will also help you get a good night’s sleep.
Kenny Vaccaro Workout: players first for physical and mental endurance
“My college coach, Duane Akina, taught me how to be the best football player I could be, but more importantly, how to be a better man,” says Vaccaro, who designed the following workout to improve the fitness of his G1 members while also relying on their stamina. The combination of a good warm-up, followed by functional drills such as rowing machines and skis will ensure his players are flexible enough to tackle any opponent, while the strength and endurance aspect is covered. by free weights, including bench press and barbell row. . Here, you’ll set your own benchmarks and take on your toughest rival: yourself. Ready? Game on!
Warm up and stretch for 15 minutes
- Rower: 100m
- Ski machine: 100m
- Medicine Ball Slam: 10 repetitions
- Light sled push: 4 sets, 30 seconds
- Plank: 4 sets of 30 seconds each
- Bench Press: (adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
- One arm dumbbell row: (adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
- Shoulder lift: (adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
- Bicep curls: (adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)