Highland students exercise their brains with new esports curriculum

by Chris Studor

In the new esports room at Highland High School, students are exercising their brains and learning the vital skills needed to launch their future careers. 

The term esports officially stands for electronic sports, not to be confused with video games, and takes video gaming to another level through organized, competitive game play between two teams or individuals.

The program is governed by its own strict set of rules and guidelines set forth by Esports Ohio, which is in embarking on its fourth year of high school competition. The organization now has more than 200 school districts from around the state that are pursuing developing esports programs, including Highland.

Recently, Ohio State University adopted its own esports program and Tiffin University constructed the largest esports arena in the nation. Likewise, more than 10 universities in the state of Ohio now offer students participating in esports scholarship money for their participation in the program. 

But the incentives don’t stop there. There are millions in professional earnings available yearly and esports viewership is growing exponentially.

In 2017, according to data from Nielsen and Rentrak, total cumulative viewership was as follows for major sports finals in 2017: the Super Bowl, 124 million; the World Series, 38 million; the NBA Finals, 32 million; and the Stanley Cup Finals, 11 million.  The League of Legends Esports finals topped all of those except the Super Bowl at 58 million viewers.

Kelli Crawford-Smith, Highland’s director of communications, explained that the district is very appreciative of the donation of the computer equipment and other furnishings in the newly established esports room in the high school media center. The esports center was funded by The TrustedSec Center for Gaming and Technology, owned by David and Erin Kennedy. Mark Phelp, of Parnter Marketing, helped secure the funding for the project. He was equally as instrumental in helping secure funding for the Highland athletic stadium.

Rick Holland, a computer science teacher at Highland High School has been named the school’s esports advisor beginning this fall. He said the addition of the esports room and program “is helping [Highland] students keep up with the times.”

“As students engage in the gaming competition, they are learning skills in web design, cyber security, digital arts, computer applications and more,” said Holland. “There are not many schools that teach students computer coding. The skills these students learn will go along way getting them into college programs and into the computer industry. There are also full scholarships available in gaming.”

Highland High School is a member of the Rocket League, which competes with other high school esports teams at the varsity and soon, the junior varsity, level.

Holland said the e   sports team practices for 90 minutes, three times a week. ∞

Highland High School’s new esports advisor Rick Holland assists junior Antonio Head in the high school’s new esports room. Photo by C. Studor.

On our cover (photo): Esports team members Antonio Head , Kyle Keeling and Nathan Roasa compete as part of Highland High School’s new esports team. Photo by Chris Studor