Esports team preparing for spring season

The fourth semi-annual Esports team is kicking off its spring at the high school.

Esports, also known as video game competitions, is a nationwide sport where high school gamers all across the country compete. The sport can be individual video games or team-based games. 

Brian Unruh, coach for the Esports team as well as a teacher at UNI, said he believes Esports benefits students because of its unique aspects. “As a district, we are always looking for ways to support and encourage students to get involved in different things. Esports has been an area that we have been able to connect with students and their interests that we might not have been able to do before,” Unruh said. 

He said scholarships are also a possibility if the team competes well.

Each season lasts eight weeks, with one season in the fall and one season in the winter. Last season around 32 students participated in Esports. 

The team has a competition every week and members are encouraged to practice on their own at least once a week. Teams played in Valorant and Rocket League. Competitions can be held from home or from iTech, which is the high school’s designated place, known as the arena. 

The ultimate goal for the upcoming season would be for the team to make it to the playoffs, which happened this fall season with the Rocket League team qualifying. “Depending on their regular-season record, teams can qualify for the playoffs, which is a single-elimination bracket. If they can advance and win the playoffs, our league gives scholarships to those winning teams at the end of the season,” Unruh said. 

He said despite the fact the students held the burden of COVID barriers, they enjoyed Esports. “We had a good number of freshmen who participated, along with high school competitors. Anytime they go and compete against other kids, it’s kind of structured, and well, they get excited,” he said. 

The teams compete against other students, ranging from ninth to 12th grade, from all across the country. Unruh said they competed against a team in Canada once. He said that Esports is more than just competitions. It’s also teamwork. “Having a team be successful and do well is fun to see. It is also fun to see teams grow and work better together over the eight weeks of the season.”

This season there will be Rocket League, Halo, Valorant and Rainbow 6. Teams were organized in the cafeteria on Jan. 31. The week of Feb. 7, the pre-season week will help gamers prepare for the week of Feb. 14, the regular season. “It is a fun way to get involved and meet other gamers that you might not have connected with otherwise. It’s a motivator for these kids.”

For any students who are already interested in gaming, Unruh said Esports may be the right fit. As of right now, around 30 students have signed up for Esports; however, the numbers are growing at an “unbelievable” rate. Unruh said almost half of the players from last season have already registered for winter.  Those interested in joining this season can sign up using this form.

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