Opening up new doors with ESports

Published 8:13 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
Not every sport is right for an athlete nor is every athlete right for a sport.

But for those who may not have a knack for sports like football or basketball but would love to participate in something that offers a route to college, ESports may be the answer.

The ESports program is now another option provided to students at Elizabethton High School, and ESports coach Chad Salyer says he believes it will open doors to opportunities for students that might not have existed before.

“ESports is competitive video games that are set up with rules and situations as in other games,” Salyer said. “They have structures that are set up to function just like referees so the games are fair and competitive.

“It’s interesting to note that ESports have gained more popularity than any other sport. You are starting to see a lot of schools get involved in it and on YouTube.”

While the students participating in ESports may not always be the typical athlete that you find in other sports, the competition and skills required are still intense.

“It takes certain types of a body to play football or basketball,” Salyer said. “In those sports, you can’t be great unless you are blessed with a great physique. In ESports, you can get to the highest level without having a particular body shape.”

The ESports program at EHS consists of three Rocket League teams with three players on each team. Team ‘A’ is the highest tier while ‘B’ and ‘C’ correlate to the player’s skill level.

Rocket League teams consist of more upperclassmen and are more mainstream and popular in America.

The other league is the League of Legends which has five team members and is mostly composed of freshmen. League of Legends is a fantasy-type game but is highly competitive and is very popular in Asia.

To date, the EHS teams have been participating in scrimmages and pre-season competitions with other teams throughout North America and Canada.

During the regular season that begins in two weeks, the school will play in the Southern Region with teams from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and the Carolinas – a fairly competitive field, Salyer says.

There are two seasons in ESports, with the fall season running from the end of September to the end of December. There is also a Spring season of competition.

The program is appealing to students, Salyer says, because many colleges now offer ESport scholarships to attend school after graduating high school.

Local schools like Milligan University, King College, and ETSU have ESports teams with ETSU being the newest of the three.

“It’s a pathway to a cool college career,” Salyer said. “I have told the kids here they have to pass every class which every kid doesn’t always do. However, it is a motivational tool to work harder and to help push them over the edge to not fail.

“We took them over to ETSU and they were amazed to see their ESports setup where they had a large movie screen and 200 seats set up for their ESports program. What the kids saw really impressed them.”

One of the students who participate in ESports said that the opportunities the program offers is what has really been the most impressive thing about being part of the program.

“People that are not athletic can now have the opportunity to compete and get scholarships,” said EHS sophomore Conley Stevens, who plans to pursue ESports after graduation.

“It (ESports) can take kids to other places that they might not have an opportunity to go.”