The computer lab at The Gilbert School looks nothing like what a typical athletic playing field would be.
Yet, since the middle of October, six students have taken part in Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) sanctioned Esports video game competitions. CIAC is the same state organization that sanctions all school athletic sports teams and competitions, including varsity football, soccer, volleyball, and now Esports.
Gilbert’s Esports program is divided into two teams made up of three students each. According to school Information Technology Technician Shayne Deschamps, who is also the coach for Gilbert’s Esports teams, CIAC is working in partnership with PlayVS, a company that is working with schools throughout the country to create the state’s Esports program. “There are colleges and universities across the country that are giving scholarships based on Esports,” Deschamps said. “It’s crazy to think that you can have students who can come in without any athletic ability whatsoever and compete in a CIAC sanctioned sport. Sometimes, these students won’t play any athletic games like football or baseball and then they go home to play video games. Now they can come in and compete in a sanctioned sports league, use those video game skills to maybe get some scholarships.”
As for the Rocket League video game itself: players compete by driving their modified cars on a field to push a ball into a goal.
Essentially, the game is a version of soccer except with hot rods flying through the air. Mr. Deschamps said that the season, which is being played in the school’s computer lab, is going for six to eight weeks, not including playoffs.“There might be people out there who are thinking ‘oh, they’re just sitting there and playing video games,’” Deschamps said. “But just like any other sport, taking part in Esports you have to build a team and communication. You also have to have skills and strategies, along with the same mental procedures you have to keep in mind just to win.”
Unlike traditional sports teams, Gilbert’s Esports teams do not have to be transported anywhere to play against teams all across the state.“We have no travel expenses,” Mr. Deschamps said. “All practices and games are being held at the school. We can play a team from Fairfield and still stay here in the computer lab.”
For more information about CIAC’s Esports league visit the CIAC E-Sports webpage.