First matches set for next week
Port Clinton High School students Seth Haynes, Landon Staib, Captain, and Tyler Rodrigue-Hejhal participate in a practice session for the new esports club. (Photo: Submitted)
PORT CLINTON – One year since the outbreak of COVID-19 hit and countless plans for spring came to a screeching halt, a few educators at Port Clinton High School are seeing one of those ideas finally coming to fruition.
Kelly Croy, director of innovation and instruction for Port Clinton City Schools, and Bruno Bush, middle and high school choir director, started brainstorming early last year about the creating an esports club at PCHS.
They were seeing the incredibly high popularity of esports, short for electronic sports, which turns multiplayer video games into organized competitive sporting events.
“Esports is a thriving and exciting field with some amazing minds competing to be the best,” Bush said.
Competitions featuring well-known video game franchises, such as Madden NFL, Call of Duty, Fortnite and many more, draw millions of viewers to their livesteams, rivaling even that of the Super Bowl, generating what has become a multibillion-dollar industry.
According to research firm SuperData, a Nielsen company, gaming video content reached 1.2 billion viewers in 2020, a growth in audience of 18% from the year before, and generated $9.3 billion in revenue.
The most popular online platforms for the gaming livestreams include websites YouTube and Twitch.
While Croy and Bush discussed their idea at the time with other school coaches and began gauging interest among the student body, when Ohio’s K-12 schools were ordered closed on March 17, 2020, due to COVID-19, plans for the club were derailed.
Passion didn’t fade; esports launches with two teams
However, their passion for esports never faded and with schools able to reopen under new safety measures this year, they began laying the groundwork once again, and added incoming science teacher Taylor Freeman to help them do so.
With Bush and Freeman serving as co-advisers and based on student feedback, they decided to launch the school’s esports club with two teams that would compete playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” a fighting game on the Nintendo Switch system.
After an initial club meeting to discuss guidelines and expectations for the new program, they hosted tryouts for the “Smash Bros.” game and began holding regular practices in November.
“Within a couple of months of practice, we’ve started to enhance our gamers’ ability in the game,” Freeman said. “They have exhibited more confidence, better game tactics, strategic thinking and bonded as a team.”
Bush, too, credited the students’ teamwork, reaction times and strategy building, which they are improving through what is already a passion they spend many hours on.
With the spring season approaching, the club began making its final selections earlier this year to field two teams of five, both of which will participate in the Esports Ohio league.
Esports Ohio is an educational nonprofit scholastic esports organization and league, which has over a hundred member high schools from all throughout the state, including a few nearby such as Genoa, Fremont Ross and Vanguard-Sentinel.
Next week, game on
Next week, Port Clinton’s two teams will open the regular season with matches against Ashland High School and Washington High School, of Washington Court House.
The season will last seven weeks, and Esports Ohio will host its spring finals tournament at the University of Akron on June 5-6.
With this being Bush’s first time coaching, he described being able to provide the alternative experience offered with esports to students, who in some cases had never participated in school athletics, as exciting, and said he wants to shine a light on the scene for the PC community.
“The future is bright for esports and I’m excited to see the program and the students bloom into their fullest potential,” Freman said.
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