Imagine playing Super Smash Bros. as Donkey Kong in high school and getting paid for it in scholarships. Think about the dopamine boost players get by out-strategizing other school opponents in League of Legends.
Thanks to the Coweta Board of Education approval on Jan. 10, all of those things are now feasible at Coweta High School. CHS officially has a competitive E-sports team.
Coweta High School math teacher and 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year Heather Sinkinson will be the head coach. Rick Poindexter, an English teacher at CHS, will be the assistant coach.
In order to be classified as ‘competitive’ and play with opponents outside of their own school district, a team must be affiliated with a league, they explained. Coweta is now a part of the Oklahoma eSports League, or OESL.
“This truly gives the kids an opportunity to compete at a higher level,” Sinkinson said. “It lets them practice in a competitive environment and it opens the doors for scholarships.”
How cool is that? There are opportunities available to get scholarships for playing games. The High School Esports League, or HSEL, works with colleges nationwide to provide those funds. Some colleges are even offering degrees in E-sports management.
Sinkinson and Poindexter have been spearheading the effort for a competitive E-sports league for about a year. Sinkinson started an impromptu ‘game club’ in her classroom after school on Fridays and invited students to play games. She brought in extra TV’s, and students came in with old GameCube’s, Nintendo 64’s and cards. It wasn’t competitive outside of Coweta, nor were there any opportunities for scholarships and advancement. But it was a start.
Due to a strong showing of student interest — sometimes upwards of 40 people — and a push from Coweta High School Principal Gary Ellis; starting a competitive E-sports team got put on the agenda in multiple Board of Education meetings in 2021. Most recently, Coweta Board of Education President Teddy Wyatt, an avid World of Warcraft player, wanted to make certain students didn’t have the complete freedom to talk to random opponents while gaming.
After Wyatt visited Coweta High’s STEM lab last week — home of Coweta’s E-Sports room — Sinkinson put his concern to bed. She explained that Coweta gamers can only talk to people on their own team. They do not have the ability to talk to opponents from other districts.
“I saw a large group of Coweta students focused and excited about their tasks at hand,” Wyatt explained to Coweta Board of Education members.
Sinkinson said she currently has 15 students interested in their competitive E-sports team, which can start as early as next week. The games will consist of Super Smash Bros., which will require travel to and from competing school sites, and League of Legends. League of Legends won’t require travel because it can be done via computer screens.
“The games are typically picked by the league based on popularity,” Sinkinson said. “In the fall, they can play Valorant, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros.” Other games will be added in to the mix as long as they are appropriate for students, she explained.
Competitive E-sports will be offered in the fall and spring, Sinkinson said. Gamers are required to have a minimum of two hours of practice time a week, and they can expect to travel at least two to four times a season. There will be select qualifying tournaments scattered into the seasons.
Like athletics, AG Ed, and band, Sinkinson and Poindexter agree that competition is still present with E-sports.
“It’s not your typical sporting event. You have to take into account strategy, team work, reflexes and preparation. While they may not be physically playing games, it still requires a lot of the same mental effort,” they said.
Most of the startup costs have already been taken care of, thanks to a generous donation from the Coweta Rotary Club. They’ve also acquired a STEM grant that can outfit eight, competitive stations. Plus a lot of their required technology is already available in the STEM lab. It now will just serve multiple purposes.
Coweta High School joins the ranks of Union and Broken Arrow with competitive E-sports teams.