Looking for right ESports definition as endeavor grows

ESports has been referenced as electronic gaming but research would indicate that is not a sufficient description of the new sport that is taking over the country and having a large impact upon the Lima area.

The most on point may be the esportsohio.org website. In essence this group holds that ESports is an ever growing and changing group of electronic game competitions. The sole mission of the group is to provide the direction and support of all schools in Ohio as those schools implement and then compete in electronic game competitions throughout Ohio.

Tech coordinator Jeff Heistan and his Shawnee Indians appear to have started way ahead of the curve this past season. Cleveland’s St. Edwards was the only school that put any kind of a dent in their ESports season.

Heistan was proud of the efforts of his students this past season and is looking forward to the return of his student-athletes in the fall.

What appears to be the most interesting element of the ESports concept is that the emphasis may be stronger on the student portion of the concept of student athletes than in most other sports.

Please understand that the student piece of the phrase is not of importance in other sports. It just seems that this “sport” may be different as it was more often born in the classroom and not on a playing field.

The roughest transition for some in this sport is stepping away from the stereotype that youth need to be outside competing and not riveted on a computer screen. It is going to take awhile to break a lot of folks north of the age of 50, maybe even 40 to see things any differently.

The preceding may be the reason that the undefeated regular season as well as the great tournament run by the Shawnee teams this past season.

The Rocket League, League of Legends, Overwatch and Smash Brothers are not household sports terms. In fact some recreational gamers will likely find this selection to be kind of boring as they lack some of the aggression that some seek.

However, if you were to talk with Shawnee students Caden Zeltner, Justin Rex, Noah Aregood and Xavier Bucher respectively they will certainly do what they can to change negative views and further validate this sport. These four were the captains of the different teams and, according to Heistan, were the driving force behind the sport at Shawnee.

The student involvement in the development and ultimate leadership of the program at Shawnee and other schools may well be a heavy influence as the OHSAA looks into the endorsement of this school sport moving forward. Incorporating the youth in the process is important in the eyes of the group.

It should be easier for parents to embrace this concept as Heistan was first the teacher of his participants and throughout the time that he spoke continued to reference the youth as his students.

How close is ESports to being considered a competitive sport in the eyes of the OHSAA? Only this august group knows the answer to that question and hopefully Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass will provide greater insight in the future.

The most recent frame of reference is when schools moved to have bowling endorsed as a sport a little more a decade ago. The bowling proprietors had developed a great program in Ohio so reaching the target number of endorsing schools (roughly 185) was not that difficult, with the number being reached within two seasons of the target number being identified.

The schools may be on that same course. This past season was the first year for Shawnee and other Ohio schools. The Ohio High School ESports website shows 51 schools competed last year and Heistan has heard that that number will increase to as many as 70 schools when school is back in the fall. That 70 school number will reportedly include five from the Western Buckeye League.

While the state organizers for bowling started at a larger number in their transitional year, the 70 number seems higher than the number of schools that were involved with proprietors in year two.

The future appears very positive for ESports being immensely popular even if OHSAA does not get in the mix. Heistan shared that he had 47 involved in his program this past season.

As share last week, there were at least 1,500 colleges across the country involved in the sport so there is certainly enough outlets for high school ESports participants to carry on their love of the game.


Reach Jack Hammill at hammill@wcoil.com.

Reach Jack Hammill at hammill@wcoil.com.

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