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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Get in the Game

In 2019, Enid High Teacher Chris Parker saw the explosion of school-based video game leagues across the country and decided to start an after-school E-Sports program for Enid High students interested in competing in leagues and tournaments. Four years later, that after school club has turned into an official 7th hour athletic activity and boasts more than 30 kids competing in up to 8 different video game titles each semester.

Current Head Coach Mitchell Wright gives a lot of credit to Parker for starting the program, but especially for applying for, and receiving, a $65,000 grant that has decked out the “practice room” with top-of-the-line gaming computers, monitors, controllers, and VR headsets that allow the team to compete.

Enid High currently competes in the Oklahoma E-Sports League (OESL), which includes over 120 schools from around the state. Each semester is a “season”, and each season has approximately 10 weeks of competition. Before each season, the OESL member schools are polled on what games they would like to compete in, and approximately 8 per season are selected. Once the titles are officially selected, Coach Wright asks who would like to compete in which title. Of course, some titles are more popular than others, but, interestingly, some of the titles that are very popular in general (like Fortnite), are not the most popular to compete in, for reasons such as the competition format or the way the game plays. 

Through practice and general interest, Coach Wright chooses who gets to compete in which title. Each game title “team” has anywhere from 1-5 players, depending on format, and the OESL is divided into Champions (Varsity), Challengers (Junior Varsity) and Contenders (Middle School) for their weekly league competitions. Based on the results of the weekly matchups during league play, the teams are seated for an end of season tournament. The initial rounds of the tournament are played remotely but culminate in the final rounds being held in person in either OKC or Tulsa.

Enid High had a team in most of the eight titles this last fall, but they made the playoffs in Overwatch 2, Rocket League Trio, Guilty Gear, and Super Smash Bros. The Super Smash Bros team made it all the way to the in-person state tournament and finished in the top 24.

Senior Blake Allen, part of the Rocket League Team, really loves being a part of E-Sports. “I was sick for about 3 years starting my freshman year, so I couldn’t really play football or any other contact sport, so I think having an E-Sports team here is really cool. Lots of colleges are giving scholarships now, and if you are really good, you can make millions of dollars, just like other pro sports. While it may not be the same as hitting someone in football, you still have to have physical coordination and endurance to be able to excel at these games. It’s not just a walk in the park.” said Blake.

Senior Justin Wiederkehr also touts the benefits of joining the E-Sports team. “I was really shy before I joined the team, but now I feel like I am more outgoing and have a great group of teammates and friends I can talk to and play games with. It has forced me to be a better communicator and really gotten me out of my shell,” he said.

Even though the program is only a few years old, it has shown signs of success from both alumni and the middle school squads as well. Lakin Avants (Class of ‘22) is currently a nationally ranked member of Oklahoma University’s League of Legends team and the middle school programs have won some tournaments.

Under the watchful eye of Waller Middle School Coach Glynn Mitchell, the Waller team won the Middle School Championship in Rocket League last year and took second in the state in Fortnite: Zone Wars and 3rd in Rocket League this year. Not to be outdone, Emerson’s Fortnite team was 3rd and Longfellow’s Rocket League was 4th.

Coach Wright says the future is bright for the Enid High team and is excited about hosting a Super Smash Bros Open Tournament in the competition gym in April where he hopes the home team will have done well. He is especially appreciative of the Enid High administration and athletic department for all the support they have given to make the program a 7th hour sport and successful. Game on! 

Robert Faulkhttps://enidmonthly.com
Robert R. Faulk is the Publisher and Editor of the Enid Monthly. Robert graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.A. in Political Science and has his J.D. from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He is originally from Oklahoma City, but is happy to have lived in Enid since 2004 and calls it "home."



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