More Iowa high schools are joining competitive esports

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — When Kennedy High School teacher Jason Lester introduced himself as a video gamer to his computer class last fall, it sparked interest from students in the class.

Kennedy High junior Ethan McCord asked Lester if he would be the staff sponsor for a new high school competitive gaming esports program.

“I couldn’t say no,” said Lester, who is also Kennedy High’s football coach. “Competitive esports has the same benefit as being part of the football team by promoting teamwork, communication and teaching life skills in a way that students are passionate about.”

Kennedy High is one of several high schools in the area to create a competitive esports — short for electronic sports — program since the 2020-21 school year, when the state established an Iowa High School Esports Association.

Today, more than 60 schools compete in fall, winter and spring in six video games: Rainbow Six Siege; Smash Brothers: Ultimate; surveillance ; Rocket League; Mario Kart and SMITE.

Over the past two years, Linn-Mar High School has won seven state championships – in Rainbow Six Siege, Rocket League, Overwatch, Mario Kart and Smash Brothers – in the Iowa High School Esports Association. Prairie High School also plans to launch an esports team beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports Kennedy’s McCord, 16, spoke May 9 at a Cedar Rapids School Board meeting, asking the board to provide funding to expand esports to all high schools across the country. district for paid coaching staff and funding travel expenses. These programs require investment to be successful and reach maximum potential, McCord said.

“This club has given me the motivation and inspiration to continue what I love after high school and college,” McCord said in his address to the board. “I want to give other students with similar aspirations a guaranteed and continued opportunity to participate in these programs, so they can pursue their dreams and reach their full potential.”

McCord said he plans to go to Iowa State University to study management and business administration in order to one day work in the esports industry, he said.

About 30 students are on Kennedy’s team, half of whom play competitively.

Students can even receive college scholarships for esports. This year, North Linn High School student Tyler Stanley received a scholarship to play video games competitively at Davenport University in Michigan.

“Playing against people with the risk of winning or losing, I would say, is probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” McCord said.

Students have many career options in the billion-dollar video game industry, Lester said. While competitive esports teams are “just as hard to break into” as the National Football League, he said, there are other job opportunities including computer programming and game design.

Lester said he strives to secure funds for Kennedy High’s esports team through corporate sponsorships and grants.

Currently, the team is using Lester’s personal gaming laptop, a student’s Sony PlayStation 4, and another student’s personal desktop computer. In a dream world, Lester said, the school would have 12 gaming units, turning a classroom into an esports arena, which Lester says would cost around $40,000.

“I would love to see places where my kids play together and where their parents can come in and see the excitement,” Lester said.

Sullivan Reck, 17, a junior at Linn-Mar High, said Linn-Mar’s team helped him turn something fun into talent and improved his social life by helping him make friends. friends.

Reck, who plans to study literature at university, said that’s why he thinks he loves video games – it’s a form of storytelling.

“Our school has a lot of talent, and we train regularly to maintain it,” Reck said.

Over 100 students participate in Linn-Mar’s esports team, but not all of them play competitively. Students can try out for teams, earn college letters, and get college scholarships. They also learn communication, leadership and critical thinking skills.

Thanks to the Linn-Mar School Foundation, six gaming computers have been purchased for the team, said Brian Johnson, Linn-Mar High School librarian and esports coordinator,

“One of the things that’s not a problem is student interest,” Johnson said. “One of the hardest things is finding the equipment to do it. It’s not a cheap thing. The end goal is to improve our players, so that they are competitive and we have a winning team.

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