West Branch students connect to esports gaming league

BELOIT – West Branch Local Schools bets on esports.

Twenty students from West Branch High School have joined the school’s new esports program.

More than 100 high schools in Ohio now participate in electronic sports, with video game competitions between school teams.

Students tried out their favorite game, and varsity, junior varsity, and club teams were determined not only by their skills, but also by the various traits that benefit specific characters in the games. Coach Daniel Hall involved the students in choosing the varsity team based on player strengths and how the characters portrayed by the students interact in games.

Liam Smith, Dylan Klimavicus, Wes Daley (top) and Kyla Clapper take part in a recent West Branch High School esports event.

Like any other sport, esports requires practice and strategy. The students meet after school for two practices each week in addition to their scheduled matches and scrimmages. During practice, the team plays games or spends time analyzing recorded videos of their competitors to come up with a plan for their own encounter with them.

“I’ve seen students develop the ability to work with other people they don’t know or have any relationship with,” Hall said. “I’ve seen students step up and become leaders to come up with plans for the games they play, while accepting and incorporating ideas from others.”

“One student even used his personal time to program an app to retrieve all levels of every team in the state, place them on his school team, and then group them according to regions defined by Esports Ohio so their team could see classifies and analyzes gameplay,” Hall said.

Esports is recognized far beyond high school as a sport, providing students with the opportunity for scholarships at some of the 18 colleges in Ohio that also offer esports programs. Esports championship games attract tens of thousands of stadium viewers and some have surpassed the online viewership of other popular sports leagues, such as the 2017 League of Legends World Championship viewership surpassing that of the NBA Finals and of the World Series.

“There are a lot of opportunities for students to play after the district team and the opportunities are only growing,” Hall said.

Some of the West Branch esports seniors are interested in pursuing esports at the college level.

“I am extremely pleased that the West Branch is able to provide these students with the opportunity to show others, including college scouts, their abilities,” Hall said.

West Branch esports team members, left to right, Ashton O'Hara, Colton Dennison, and Marcus Marsilli play Valorant at a recent gathering.