LEIGHTON — Colbert County High School is piloting an Esports program this spring, which happens to be the newest sanctioned sport by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
Coach Mike Ricketts, a computer science teacher at the school, said the program has breathed new life into extracurricular offerings.
"It offers another great option for our students outside of the regular school realm," he said.
"We were thrilled to be able to offer this to students, and there's been a lot of interest," Ricketts said.
There's been so much interest in Esports that the school has four teams with a total of 12 students. Three are regional league teams which play other teams from all over the country, and one competes only within Alabama for a state championship.
The school's state team with two competitions under its belt is undefeated, ranking 15th out of 87 teams.
The regional teams are likewise faring well, although several hundred teams compete in their league.
One of Colbert County High teams, "The Tribe," is undefeated and currently ranked 83rd in the regional league.
The teams have access to four games — Rocket League, League of Legends, Madden 21, Smite and FIFA. Currently, the teams are only playing Rocket League.
"We want to grow the program and branch out to play more games," Ricketts said. "I've got kids expressing interest, so we'll soon have a meeting to determine what our fall season will look like."
Gamer Michael Sharp, a ninth-grader, said he's been gaming for years, and this school league is making him better. He's also made a few new friends along the way.
"I'm really glad this came along as a school sport because it's what I do anyway, so to have the chance to get better and be around people who love it like I do, it's a good thing," he said.
Team member Brian Fisher said he never had the opportunity to play sports in school, so he's always played games. He admits he had gotten pretty proficient at it, adding "this has taken it to a whole new level."
"It's more of a social environment, but it's fun," he said. "The goal for my team is to have fun and get better at the game."
Trey Oliver, an 11th grader on the "Wig Wam" team, said he juggles practice time between baseball and track in the spring. He also plays football in the fall.
"It's a completely different set of skills from all the other sports, which is why I love it," he said. "With Esports it's mental processing and hand skills — those motor skills make the difference.
"I've played games for years, but just recently got into Rocket League," Oliver said. "I'm decent, but I'm getting better. I want to take this as far as I can."
Coed students in grades 9-12 are eligible to compete. Tournaments are on Thursdays during fall and spring semesters.
"There are kids playing on teams together who never played together before, or didn't even know each other," Ricketts said. "It gets them out of that room where they're playing alone at home and puts them in a social environment where they have to depend on each other. It's a good thing for kids."
Ricketts said some of the benefits to Esports include teaching communication skills among other personal skills.
The opportunity to offer Esports came through a generous donation to the school in time to get the teams competing this spring, Ricketts said.
The donation afforded the program 12 new gaming computers with 32-inch curved monitors, three Xboxes and three PlayStations.
Courtesy of the TimesDaily – By Lisa Singleton-Rickman