March 18, 2022
Twenty West Branch High School students are actively gaming on behalf of the district in the school’s new esports program.
Esports, short for electronic sports, is taking high schools and colleges by storm with video game competitions between school teams. West Branch High School is one of more than 100 Ohio high schools competing through the Esports Ohio league.
In order to participate, students were required to try out for their preferred game. Teams (varsity, JV, and club) were determined not only by skillset, but also by the various traits that benefit specific characters within the games. Coach Daniel Hall involved the students in choosing the varsity team based on the strengths of players and the way the characters the students represent interact within the games.
Like any other sport, esports require practice and strategy. The students meet after school for two practices each week in addition to their scheduled matches and scrimmages. During practice, the team may play the game or spend time analyzing recorded videos of their competitors to develop a plan for their own encounter with them.
“I have seen students develop the ability to work with others who they do not know, or who they know but have no relationship with,” says Hall. “I have seen students step up and become leaders to develop plans for the games they play, while accepting and incorporating the ideas of others.”
“One student even used personal time to program an app to retrieve all of the levels of every single team in the state, place them on their school team, and then group them according to the regions defined by Esports Ohio so that their squad could see ranks and analyze gameplay,” says Hall.
Esports is recognized well beyond high school as a sport, offering students the opportunity for scholarships at some of the 18 Ohio Colleges who also have esports programs. Championship esport matches draw tens of thousands of viewers to stadiums and some have surpassed the online viewership of other popular sporting championships, such as the 2017 League of Legends world championship viewership surpassing that of the NBA Finals and World Series.
“There are plenty of opportunities for students to play after the district team and the opportunities are only growing,” says Hall. Some of West Branch’s esports seniors are interested in pursuing esports at the college level, and Hall says “I am extremely happy that West Branch is able to provide an opportunity for these students to show others, including college scouts, their capabilities.”