On many afternoons in one Gretna High School classroom, students gather after school to game.
New this year, the GHS Esports team is stepping up to the plate and often crushing the competition in a relatively new competition sport that uses video games.
The idea originated when computer science teacher Kimberly Ingraham-Beck and a student attended a conference, at which one session was focused on getting Esports started schools nationwide. The pair talked with coaches and set a plan in motion, hosting an information meeting at the school that drew much interest.
“As a team in its first year, we’re competing really, really well,” said Cuahtemoc Hernandez, a junior Esports player at GHS.
Students compete both locally and nationally through both the Nebraska Schools Esports Association and the North America Scholastic Esports Federation.
All grade levels at Gretna High School are welcome to join the team, which currently has about six main competitors and a number of substitutes.
Overwatch and StarCraft are played on the PC, while competitors on Playstation, Xbox or PC can can play in the cross platform game Rocket League. Two different games will be offered in the spring semester.
“They’re doing amazing,” Ingraham-Beck said. “I’m most proud of how they’ve been able to work together as a team. We’ve got kids from different grades and different walks of life. They weren’t all friends when they started but watching them come together and learn to work as a team has been really amazing.”
The team is 6–2 after its win Thursday. Members are also undefeated, 3–0, in their national bracket where they compete against other central time zones. Now reaching the playoffs, they will continue to compete. The state competition is set for Nov. 23.
This year, students got off and running, playing together for the first time in their first competition. As players get their games set up and ready for competitions, they strategize and map out a plan. They use the Discord app to communicate with other teams.
“We try to practice together but it’s mostly on our own or whenever we can get a few people together,” Hernandez said.
Team members hope to expand the variety of games played next year, which they believe will spark more interest and participation among their peers.
“We learned a lot getting started,” Ingraham-Beck said. ”We’re going to be a lot more prepared for next year and next season.”
Naturally, the opportunity provides students a chance to explore their interests and learn important skills like how to work together to execute a plan.
“The game is really special to me because I’ve been playing it ever since it came out,” Hernandez said. “This requires a lot more cooperation, talking and communicating.”
Greater opportunity can be explored as they prepare for the future, as some colleges like Bellevue University and Midland University have begun offering partial and full ride scholarships to play on their Esports teams.
Some colleges are now offering Esports-related majors as well. Courses are being offered in things like shoutcasting — essentially commentating on the game — video production and even Esports coaching.
“I’d love to see more area schools getting on board,” Ingraham-Beck said.