TORRINGTON – A few months ago, a representative from a company called PlayVS – an online platform which offers structure to a virtual high school Esports league – approached Torrington High School Athletics Director Dave Plendl about the possibilities of starting an Esports program at THS.
That information was ultimately passed on to Martin Schaneman, the school’s computer science teacher.
“He figured I would have an interest in something like that,” Schaneman said.
Schaneman jumped at the opportunity, and after a Zoom meeting with the PlayVS representative, he decided to give it a try.
So, the THS Esports team was launched, costing the school only $20 on a trial basis.
Two months into the program, THS has between 10-15 students taking part with the numbers fluctuating because of jobs and other sports going on at the same time.
“It’s taken a hit right now as winter sports is getting ready to start up, but I’ve had a solid 10 kids show up three or four days a week depending on which games they play and how much free time they have for,” Schaneman said.
The program allows Blazer students to compete in three console games – Rocket League, Fornite and Smite.
“They have two other games that are computer only – Overwatch and League of Legends,” Schaneman said. “Our only problem there is, we don’t have kids that have gaming computers. The three on the console are great.”
Those three games can be played on either Xbox or Playstation.
Schaneman also said PlayVS will be adding more games to the list soon.
“They will be adding a sports game in the spring. They are adding Madden. They will be adding 2K games,” he said. “They haven’t told us the full list, but they have told us there will be soon one for each sport.”
Right now, THS has two Rocket League teams which are the only ones competing. One has league matches on Wednesday and the other on Thursday.
Both teams currently sport a 2-3 record.
“We had a pretty competitive Rocket League team at the beginning,” Schaneman said. “Through some misfortunes, they haven’t been able to play together as much.”
The Fornite and Smite teams hope to begin competition in the spring.
A Fornite team is comprised of three players while Smite takes five players, and Schaneman feels those teams need more practice time together before heading into competition.
Torrington High School was the first school in the state of Wyoming to join the Esports world.
As a result, the Blazers have to look outside the area for competition, but in the virtual world, that’s not an issue.
“They are from all over the place. We’ve played a school from Hawaii a few weeks ago,” Schaneman said. “Last week, the school we played was from Georgia. They just throw us in to get a match.”
The goal is to get more eventually make it a localized competition, but right now that’s just not possible.
“I think it would become a little more centralized if more schools in the state had it,” Schaneman said. “They legitimately have a state championship for each game, but since we don’t have anyone else in our state, we get thrown in with some of the nearby areas.”
Most of the competition THS has faced this fall is from the western part of the United States – Montana, Arizona, California – but on rare occasions, they have to play a team from even further away.
The world of Esports is growing and growing fast.
“One of the things the sales guy told us about Esports, during the League of Legends World Championships, they had more people watch that than the Super Bowl,” Schaneman said. “It’s very popular thing around the country.”
Students can now even be awared scholarships to compete at the collegiate level.
“It’s a wild world we live in,” Schaneman said. “If kids are good enough, they can get scholarships for gaming and be on a gaming team in college.”
There has been a learning curve for everyone involved in the new program, but right now it’s all about consistency, according to Schaneman.
“We are just trying to establish some consistency, and in the years to come, I think we’ll see some pretty cool things come out of this,” he said. “As our numbers grow and teams consistently playing the games, I think it’s going to be awesome. I think this is something that can be as big as any other program we have.”
In the short amount of time the Esports program has been around, Shaneman has learned a lot and as a result, he hopes to alive in the years ahead and keep it growing.
“It’s pretty cool what we have going on. I just hope we can legitimately keep it going. I think we’ll be able to. Our numbers speak for themselves. The kids want to do it,” he said. “We are going to try everything we can to try to keep it because our kids like it. If we can get it going again next year, we’ll get more kids, and it will continue to grow and will continue to get better.”