eSports league powering up

Cedar Falls is launching a new video game team.

Huddled around screens, displaying animated images, a remote control in hand; high school sports is taking a new form through eSports. 

eSports is a form of competition, like baseketball or cross country, but using video games.  Brian Unruh, coordinator of industrial technology for the Cedar Falls School District and coach of the CFHS eSports team, first became interested in eSports when he attended the Iowa Technology and Education Conference (ITEC) in Des Moines, where they talked about eSports. Later on, Unruh had multiple meetings with the Area Education Agency (AEA) where they had a video conference with the guys who created the high school eSports league. 

With more knowledge on the details of eSports, Unruh brought his ideas to the administration. “I started to have some conversations with Mr. Becker, Mr. Wedgbury, the superintendent, just to see if this is something we maybe, kind of want to do. So over the last few months we’ve gone from ‘Hey, this might be something good to do’ to ‘How do we pull this off?’,” Unruh said. 

Like cross country and basketball, eSports has scheduled games, practice times and a strategy that the team follows.“So, it’s going to be like a sport, like basketball,” Unruh said. “It’s going to be after school, and it will have specific practice times. It will have game times, so, it will be pretty structured. It won’t be “Hey, go home, play games and we will see you tomorrow.’ There’s rules associated with it, and there is code of conduct while you play. You can have penalties. You can end up forfeiting matches. At the end of a season there is play offs. There are lots of facets to it.” 

Unlike most sports, eSports will be all year round at the high school. There will be winter, spring and fall teams. Participants can join and leave these teams as they would like. 

Last week Unruh sent out the information about the new team to the high school and the freshmen at the junior high. One hundred and ten students signed up saying they were interested in being a part of the team. With a group this large, they will have many options regarding the strategies they can use and whether they play multiplayer or single games. 

Unruh said out of the list that the high school eSports gave the team, they will probably play three to five games, including:  Overwatch, Fortnite, Super Smash Brothers, Rocket League and League of Legends. 

Not only does the sport teach students teamwork and hard working skills like other sports, but the players can receive scholarships as well. “There’s different scholarship opportunities for kids to go to college. So, the better the teams do, the more exposure they can get, which will then lead to different opportunities at the college level too. So, hopefully all of those will be different ways we can feel like we can have a successful program,” Unruh said. 

Just starting out this year, Unruh said he hopes that the students will have fun and that they will learn more about the sport as they go. “I think this year is to get it off the ground. I would love for everyone to have a good experience with it. We’ll learn a lot as we get going, ’cause there is really not much to go off of, so figuring things out. Figuring out practice schedules and different things, and maybe figuring out ways for kids to get better,” Unruh said. 

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