Last fall, as current Brother Rice High School senior Mateo Zarate navigated his way through a school year marred by a pandemic, he noticed an announcement for a new club on a hallway bulletin board. “I was hanging out with friends, saw the flyer, and thought it’d be cool to join.” It wasn’t long before Zarate was controlling a suped-up virtual car, speeding around a colorful domed arena, trying to score soccer-style goals in a high-octane driving game called Rocket League–all from the comfort of a high-backed gamers’ chair in his bedroom. Welcome to a new generation of competition: eSports!
Much like traditional sports hold contests in baseball, football, and basketball, eSports teams compete against each other in a variety of different video games. Brother Rice’s eSports team launched at the beginning of the 2020 school year and started competing in the spring of 2021.
“I got involved because I saw the growth of this sport and how popular it is around the world, especially once we were all locked down for COVID,” says Science teacher Mr. Evan Strehlau, who coaches and moderates the eSports Club for Brother Rice. “With eSports, Brother Rice can give more students an opportunity to grow, to learn teamwork, and to get into colleges. It gives those students who might not play on a traditional sports team a chance to shine.”
The eSports season is also rather unconventional: There are two seasons– one in fall and one in spring–but the team can change based on students’ other commitments. In that way, there is more flexibility for those who want to join.
“We are looking at competing against other schools in the PlayVs (read: “play-versus”) platform, in the games of Rocket League and League of Legends,” says Strehlau, “New members are always welcome, and all practices and matches take place after school during the week in the new eSports room here on campus.”
One of the newest renovations at Brother Rice, the eSports room, was completed this past July and is equipped with a dozen ASUS gaming computers, corresponding ergonomic swivel chairs, several large monitors, and a lounge area. Players sometimes bring their own controllers to use as well. The idea for an exclusive eSports classroom was based on need and on other factors. Coach Strehlau explains, “Unlike last year, when students could join in from home, we are now competing in PlayVs, so we are required to compete from school. We also needed a place to house our teams and equipment, and, being a team sport, having the teammates in the same room working together is crucial to our success.”
“It’s a comfortable place to wreck your enemies,” Zarate adds. “With an eSports room right on campus, why play at home?”
Zarate’s forte is Rocket League, which he says is “basically driving around in cars playing soccer,” but, he clarifies, “players still need to know the intricacies of the game–like boost engines and aerials–to enhance their performance.” What about League of Legends? According to Zarate and the League of Legends website, five players compete in a team-based strategy game where the objective is to “destroy the others’ base.” Players assume the personas of fantastical champions who have different skills and abilities. “It’s more complicated,” Zarate admits, “but I’d love to learn how to play League of Legends.”
It sounds like by joining the Brother Rice eSports Club, the opportunity to learn how to play different video games and compete as part of a larger team is wide open. Who knows what college experiences that may open up as well? For instance, Crusader alum Nolan Greene (‘19) currently plays Division I eSports at Marquette University. “If I can get really good and there’s a possibility to join an eSports team in college, I’ll definitely do it,” Zarate says. “Until then, I can see the popularity of eSports growing even more as we start winning. I am excited to start competing!”
For more information about the Brother Rice eSports Club, please contact Mr. Evan Strehlau at email@example.com.