FORT JENNINGS — Esports programs are becoming popular at the high school level teaching students about teamwork, communication and competition skills that will prepare them for future careers.
Fort Jennings High School will kick off its new Esports program in January. A meeting with parents and participants has been planned this month to discuss the program for the 16 team members grades 9th through 12th who are signed up.
Esports is short for electronic sports. Electronic sports are competitive electronic games of strategy that can be played individually or as a team.
The program provides students with an opportunity to play popular video games called League of Legends and Overwatch that are games nationally and globally. Each team has a task to compete against an attacking team. It is compared to regular competitive sports where there are objectives to play a game.
Matt Dube, Esports coach and Fort Jennings Elementary School principal, said he and Rob Warnecke, tech coordinator, Nick Langhals, Fort Jennings Schools superintendent, and Todd Hoehn, Fort Jennings athletic director, have been working for the past year to bring an Esports program to the school.
They consulted with Ohio Northern University and Shawnee High School to mirror their program after these schools. Tiffin University also offers an Esports program.
Fort Jennings was able to create at Esports arena using a grant to purchase computer chairs, specialized gaming computers and headsets at eight stations for students in the program to use.
“Esports isn’t going anywhere, it’s a growing billion dollar industry. Any time we can give students an opportunity to participate in something outside of just class who aren’t already doing extra curricular activities that is a good thing,” Dube said.
Kyle Norbeck, Fort Jennings senior, plays baseball at the school and is on the Esports team.
“I had watched Esports on YouTube before playing it. I want to study music production where a lot of technology is used and working with the Esports computers will help me,” Norbeck said.
Jeff Heistan, Shawnee schools district technology coordinator, said Esports Ohio is in its second year of high school competition at the school with 38 members on the team.
“There are millions in professional earnings available yearly and Esports viewership is growing exponentially,” Heistan said.
Shawnee schools started in the Esports Ohio program in the first season last year (Alpha Spring Season) and competed against 45 schools in four sports — Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League and Smash.
A questionnaire was submitted to students who were interested and school officials discovered that there were many students who were interested.
“Esports allows students to develop critical soft skills for kids that aren’t traditionally involved in sports — social skills, teamwork and communication. In addition, we have several seniors that have been offered scholarships,” Heistan said.
Kenton High School is participating in the Esports Ohio gaming league this year, according to Joe Funkhouser, Kenton High School information technology ProgressBook administrator.
Kenton High School started the 2019-2020 school year with over 50 students interested in playing competitive Esports, Funkhouser said. Approximately 40 of those students actually participated in formal practice sessions and eight weeks of competition against other Ohio schools in the league.
“We were excited to offer esports to our high school students. Esports brings student gamers together for competitive play. They are learning lessons that would be available in traditional sports. Students must learn teamwork, appropriate social skills, critical thinking and problem solving, perseverance, and a growth mindset,” Funkhouser said.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.