Quick Nav

Esports team fuels connection, perseverance

When he first interviewed for a faculty position in the English Department at Immaculata High School last year, Dennis Schneider was surprised to learn of the school administration’s desire to add esports to its growing roster of teams.
Posted on 05/04/2023

When he first interviewed for a faculty position in the English Department at Immaculata High School last year, Dennis Schneider was surprised to learn of the school administration’s desire to add esports to its growing roster of teams.

Now in his first year of teaching at the high school, Schneider leads an esports team that, while still in its infancy, is proving to be a promising prospect in the world of competitive gaming and is preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or the likes of which that require the dexterity, concentration, and communication skills learned through multiplayer competitive gaming.

“Esports is one of the few things children digitally engage in now that requires prolonged concentration,” said Schneider, noting the striking contrast between the mental stamina required for competitive gaming and the limited amount needed to scroll through 30-second videos on other digital platforms. “Anything where they have to concentrate, where they have to set goals and work towards something, just helps to generally build character.”

Building the team from the ground up, along with retrofitting a space for gaming within the high school, was done with the support of the “generous, open-minded administration and the hard work and diligence of John Lagola,” the director of technology for the school who helped to rewire the lab for high-speed internet and to equip the space with ten high-end gaming computers and monitors. 

“It took a little while to get things going,” said Schneider, who added that while the team began fundraising quickly, they also began competing right away. “At the beginning, before anyone in the school community really knew about the esports team, I needed to get the entry fees in right away,” so the English teacher and esports coach helped to jumpstart fundraising efforts by donating the entry fees himself.

Glancing around the esports lab, Schneider pointed to the various pieces of newly ordered specialized gaming equipment, rattling off the cost of each. “It’s expensive,” he said, adding that a good amount of his time spent coaching is also allocated to fundraising because “without that, we wouldn’t be able to compete,” he affirmed.

Even with a supportive administration, a new esports lab, and his own coaching, Schneider credited the esports team members for shoring up success. 

“I really needed this kind of team because they know the game,” he said, mentioning that many of the players have been playing computer-based games since they were young. “I can’t play the game better than they know the game,” he said of his team, which includes five active players - four of which are seniors - and a number of other students who come for practices or to assist with streaming to the team’s Twitch account: twitch.tv/ihsvalorant.

The team meets in the esports lab three times a week on average to play Valorant, a multiplayer tactical first-person game first released in the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic in spring 2020. In their first season last fall, the team competed virtually in matches hosted by the High School Esports League, finishing 22nd out of the 150 teams in their region as part of the regular season, with a record of 5-3. “In the playoff bracket, Immaculata High School’s esports team advanced to the second round, only falling to the 6th seed and eventual third place finisher,” Schneider said proudly. 

Following the success of their first season, in the spring, the team made it to the quarter finals of the regional Valorant tournament, placing them among the final eight of more than 150 teams. Next year, the team will continue to compete in Valorant at a high level, with a firm foundation set for next year, but will also consider expanding into other games and competitions based on student interest and experience. Since its successes, the team also began hosting casual internal competitions, beginning with Fortnite, to better ingrain esports into the student culture.

“Esports is something that everybody can access,” said Schneider. “There are natural skill sets and strengths involved, but anyone can become good at this, despite how they are physically built or how naturally gifted they are. This is an industry that is really taking off; millions of people are watching this every week; people are making careers out of it; people are earning college scholarships through it. It is something to be taken seriously, and it is more than just an after-school activity, it is something anyone can do.”