By Marty Bitter, Madera Unified School District Athletic Director
Sports, as we have known them, are now taking on a whole new look. This school year, all three Madera Unified High Schools will be outfitted in a sport that doesn’t look like anything we have seen before!
Esports has ARRIVED! What are Esports, you might be asking? Well, the ‘E’ represents “Electronic” sports. You guessed it, video games. Many of our traditional sports enthusiasts will second guess whether video gaming should really be called sports, but the reality is there are many similarities. I spent some time asking our coaches a few questions such as:
- How many students are participating?
- How did you go about structuring your team?
- How are practices organized?
- What games are you currently playing?
- Who do you play?
Here is what I found out.
We started out with relatively small teams primarily because it is a new sport, and it did take some time to get the word out. These students have to go through the same sports packet requirements and academic criteria as all of our student-athletes. Currently, there are about 15 student-athletes at Madera South and Matilda Torres and almost 40 at Madera High. All of our coaches feel strongly that once this gets started, the program will grow rapidly.
Coaches had all potential esports athletes come in to practice the games we are offering to see each player’s skill level. This information would help them determine how to structure practices. There is a Fall and Spring season where the games played are League of Legends or (LOL), Rocket League and the favorite of the students so far, Fortnite. Each game is played with 3 to 5 players, so if a team has ten players, they can actually divide them up so they are competing in all three games. Generally, if a student competes in Rocket League in the Fall, he or she will participate in another game during the Spring season.
Weekly practices are structured to the game plan and improve on all three games.
A normal week would be:
- Monday: Covid Testing and League of Legends.
- Tuesday: Rocket League practice
- Wednesday: Fortnite practice
- Thursday: Rocket League practice focusing on what was learned on Tuesday and expanding it into new strategies.
- Friday: Fortnite.
The students practice against each other, and if coaches want them to practice a specific skill or maneuver, they will jump in and play with the students. It is a collaborative experience for our students. They really learn to work together and teach each other in order for the team to achieve its highest level of success. It is also a very inclusive sport. The teams are coed and will be made up of student-athletes who have never played a team sport before to the shortstop on the baseball team. Anyone can join and have fun and make some new friends along the way.
A company called Play VS has partnered with the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) and sets up all of the schedules and leagues. They have varsity and recreation competitions. Our schools play high schools all over California and possibly other states for playoff competitions. The CIF putting Esports under its umbrella allows them to control what games are played as well as implementing the same amount of practice hours per week that other sports get.
The teams were looking forward to their first experience when the league started on October 1st. They wanted to test their skills against other gamers!! I hope if you are interested in gaming, you will give our Esports teams a try. It is one of the fastest and most-watched sports in the world. Each year more and more colleges add Esports to their athletic offerings providing college scholarships and great future job opportunities with major companies like Google and Apple!