There’s a new sports team at Madison County Central High School, but you won’t find them practicing in a gymnasium or on a field.
They also don’t pass bullets – at least not physical bullets.
However, teamwork and strategy are still essential parts of the games they play; points are simply scored with controllers or keyboards.
While video games are considered by many to be a hobby or a form of escapism, many video games are highly competitive in nature. Esports – in which gamers compete in different genres of multiplayer games – has grown tremendously over the past decade.
After the Kentucky High School Athletics Association adopted an Esports program, Madison Central teachers Chris Dyal and Nathaniel Lockard created an Esports league at their school.
The pair created teams for games like Super Smash Bros., Madden NFL, Rocket League, and League of Legends. Next year, the teachers said the plan is to add NBA 2K, Mario Kart, Splatoon 2 and Hearthstone.
According to Dyal, the idea for an Esports team came from enthusiastic students.
“Students have come up to me over time and asked me about it,” Dyal said. “One day, one of the other teachers told me that KHSAA was doing esports. I immediately thought, ‘This is it, this is what I want to do here.’ Then, unfortunately, COVID made things take a bit longer… Well, that was the first year I had time to introduce it to the kids… We’ve been building on it ever since.”
A student was about to try out for the tennis team when he heard about trying out for Madison Central’s League of Legends team.
“I was going to go to tennis tryouts and I walked past Mr. Lockard’s room. He told me about League of Legends and how he was a secondary coach. I told him how much that meant to me. was interested, but I kind of fell off. He told me to go join them, so I got down and joined them. There weren’t many people, so I felt needed,” he said. recalls Drayton Dydasco.
Alex Ruf joined the Rocket League team under different circumstances.
“I told everyone I was playing Rocket League and asked everyone if I could play with them. Then a friend of mine told me there was an Esports team.”
While he normally plays Rainbow Six: Siege, Ethan Wood’s passion for video games led him to join the school’s Madden NFL team.
“I saw the ad on Google Classroom for the class page. When I saw that Mr. Dyal was the coach, I said ‘Yeah, that’s something I would definitely do’,” because I’ve played video games all my life,” says Bois.
Dydasco, Wood and Ruf are the captains of their respective teams. Although they all had different circumstances to join, they all have a passion for video games. Coaches Dyal and Lockerd are also longtime players, with Dyal noting that having an Esports team would have been unimaginable for him growing up.
“Growing up in a small county, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to provide that for kids,” Dyal said.
Twenty-five students are active in the Esports program at Madison Central, with 35 enrolled in total. Pre-COVID, Wood and Dydasco were among several students who pushed to bring Esports to school. Dydasco spoke of the privilege of having the team at school.
“Having it now and being able to say to my parents, ‘Don’t mind me, I’m playing video games for school,’ is a really cool privilege to have,” Dydasco said.
As captains of their teams, Wood, Ruf and Dydasco agreed that games in which they face other schools are high pressure, but rewarding. The same rules that are in place for traditional sports exist for electronic sports. Like talking or antagonizing other players, points can be deducted from the offending player’s team.
Teams even have training sessions where they play from home.
Members of the program have noted that an Esports team brings a lot of good to the school – whether it’s bringing together students who might feel alienated from other mainstream sports – or other opportunities like scholarships. universities for gifted players.
“I think esports is still a growing industry. It’s not as big as it can be,” Wood said. “It’s cool that we can be a part of this… If I had the opportunity to play high school for myself – with just grades and school work, I probably wouldn’t have the best time at the college or I couldn’t go to college. But it gives me a pathway. So it’s a really good opportunity for a lot of people.”
The Madison Central Esports team regularly plays against teams from other states.
The school’s five teams also play regularly against teams from across the state and are eligible for playoff games held at the University of Kentucky. The school is setting up streams where people can watch Madison Central teams play. Students and coaches hope to set up a lab soon with setups for video game consoles and computers so teams can play together in person.