Schools begin to compete in eSports tournaments


Local schools are beginning to adopt a global phenomenon known as eSports, where thousands fill auditoriums and convention centers to see the best players in a given game face off while millions more stream some of the larger events online.

Travian Chambers is a Canton Academy junior. Like many gamers, teen or otherwise, he likes to play Fortnite, a battle royale-style video game.

"I was one of the first kids at my school to get into the game so people thought I was pretty good," Chambers said. "I really wasn't, but I was getting challenged a lot as other people got into the game and now I am better than most of my friends."

Chamber recently put his skill to the test in a tournament held by the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools. Chambers played against other division champions. He signed up online and represented 4A as the number one seed. Last month, Chambers made it to the quarterfinals where he defeated Daniel Llopis, the 3A number two seed from Portors Chapel. He ultimately lost in the semifinals to 6A number one seed, Gran Holmes of Parkland Academy, who would go on to lose the championship round to Prescott Shaumberg from Indianola Academy.

"It was fun, I enjoyed it," Chambers said. "Our school sent out a link to sign up. I made it pretty far. I know I was playing top seeds from each division. I beat the first guy but the second one they put me up against, I think his screen name was Joystick, was really good."

MRA's Cross Miciello and Tri-County Academy's Cannon Graham participated in a tournament last week that was won by Park Place Christian Academy.

Ridgeland High School celebrated its inaugural season of eSports this spring and though extracurricular activities were cut short by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, students said they look forward to continuing in the fall.

Hung Mai is a junior at RHS and a member of the Titans' team. When the season ended their League of Legends team was among the top three in the state.

"It was fun. I really like working together as a team to achieve a common goal and on top of all that the game is just fun to play," Mai said.

Bill Richardson is one of the coaches along with Winston Smith. In all they had 15 kids sign up this year, complete with team jerseys and a logo.

"I think it was a really good start," Richardson said. "While there likely won't be a champion crowned this year there is a lot of excitement. We have kids begging to be on the team and I know there is a lot of interest form the incoming eighth-graders. We will have to find a way to find the best students in the school."

Richardson said he looked forward to an upcoming meeting with the athletic department to figure out how to improve and move forward into the fall. High school eSports feature both fall and spring seasons which will allow for students multiple opportunities to compete.

At RHS, 15 students are split between two games — League of Legends, Richardson's specialty, and Rocket League, Smith's concentration.

"We meet in the engineering lab which is a natural fit and we communicate with coaches of other teams to set up matches on special servers," Richardson said. "It is best two out of three and we get to stand behind the students and tell them good job and talk them up and make sure they are using strategies we discussed and communicating."

There are many avenues for eSports to expand. Gene Wright, director of communication for the Madison County School District, said that Madison Middle School is considering sponsoring a team next year.

Richardson said they hope to add another game, Smite, before too long.

Chambers said he would like to see the MAIS offer tournaments in other games like the aforementioned Rocket League and the ever-popular Rainbow Six Siege.

"The tournament was a fun way to participate in a competition and see how good you are against kids outside your friend group," Chambers said.

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