Currently in its third year in Ohio, esports have just arrived at McClain High School and offer students a chance for team play in competitive sports, but in a different sort of way.
Electronic sports, called esports, is competitive play of video games of strategy. In the high school setting, students play games that are appropriately rated for teens and younger.
According to Ohio’s website for high school esports, students experience the same sort of benefits as with traditional sports like building relationships and confidence, encouraging communication and teamwork, motivating students to maintain good grades in order to remain eligible, and providing scholarship opportunities to many Ohio universities. Additionally, offering esports gives students not interested in traditional sports the opportunity for competitive play while also preparing students “for the increasingly digital world around them.”
Other benefits listed on the site are something called “STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) opportunities,” things like streaming and video production, coaching, game analysis, web design and marketing, graphic design, audio engineering and hardware/IT. For more information, go to https://www.esportsohio.org.
A student survey at McClain circulated last year showed there was a fair amount of interest — about 80 students — said Jesse Mitchell, the district’s technology director who was responsible for setting up the students’ play space.
Interested students were able to sign up in recent weeks, and last week they began practice to prepare for the spring season. There are actually two seasons in the Ohio Esports league, spring and fall.
According to coach Kyle Barr, Ohio Esports is the league name, and it is within the league that students will participate. The 20 students who recently signed up have chosen to play games called “Rocket League,” “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” and “Overwatch.” There will be three teams for “Rocket League” and one team for “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.” Those playing “Overwatch” will only be participate in scrimmages.
Barr said esports is considered to be the same as traditional sports as it requires a dedicated level of commitment and effort. Also, as with traditional sports, there are recruitment and college scholarship opportunities for the students.
The first scrimmage is set for the first week of March, with the spring season officially kicking off the following week.
There will be no travel, Barr said, but before the pandemic, travel was permitted. For now, students will practice and play scrimmages and matches from a room at the school dedicated to the sport.
Through the spring season, matches will take place on Wednesdays with practice on Thursday and Fridays, Barr said.
The coach is working on a way for the public to spectate, but he said that might take a couple weeks to be ready. However, esports activities and information will be posted on the McClain High School Facebook page.
“I’ve walked in our new esports room the last couple days during tryouts, and it was a very exciting experience,” said McClain Principal Matt Shelton. “This is something that has reached the interest of many students that may not be involved in some of the more well-known extracurriculars.“
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.