CLINTON — Damien Sanchez, C.J. Davidson, and Ben Howard, three Clinton High School students, are working to bring kids together with the creation of a new esports club.
Sanchez, Davidson, and Howard are members of this year’s CHS Synergy group, an initiative-based program aimed toward making positive changes within the community.
Esports, short for “electronic sports,” is not a new concept. The first official video game competition took place in 1972. In the 1980s, esports competitions became mainstream. During the pandemic, though, several esports platforms were created out of the demand by people staying home.
The Iowa High School Esports Association was created in 2019 and, now with 60 schools participating throughout the state, traditional sports and video games have been brought together in an organized manner. Esports participants can even have the opportunity to participate at the collegiate level, possibly with St. Ambrose University or the University of Northern Iowa, and professionally.
Esports uses games like League of Legends and Mario Kart to promote team building, communication skills, improved coordination and critical-thinking skills. Esports has even been shown to increase a student’s grade-point average, gaming supporters say..
Esports additionally provides students who might not be athletic or interested in sports a chance to feel more connected to their school as well as other students.
“Some kids, they’re not strong enough, they’re not fast enough for those kinds of sports,” Sanchez says, referring to traditional high school sports. “Sometimes, video games is the one thing they have.”
The structure and schedule of high school esports clubs are similar to that of traditional sports, with games held once a week right after school. Under teacher supervision, schools compete against each another.
“The interesting thing,” Synergy facilitor Philip Swanson says, “is you might not be playing anyone close to you,” noting Davenport or even Des Moines high schools as examples.
The schools that advance to state competition at the end of the season will meet at one location and play against each other in person.
Synergy facilitator Bill Misiewicz brought the idea of an esports club for CHS to a technologically talented student last year. After having just asked area businesses for assistance in fundraising for the murals that Synergy produced last year, however, this student didn’t feel right contacting them so soon for esports fundraising. But he had at least created a foundation for the project from which the group’s current students get to build.
They’ve spoken to the president of the Iowa High School Esports Association for information on starting a club of this nature and have also conducted a survey to gauge student interest in the project. Results showed 43 out of 56 students surveyed were in favor of the club.
Currently, they are in the process of confirming a location for the club in the new high school and, due to issues caused by construction, finding out whether their internet network has the capability to handle the needs of esports at this time. They’ll also need to seek the approval of Clinton School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy and the Clinton School Board in regard to the games.
They’re planning as well to reach out to local companies like ADM and Nestle Purina to find out if they’ve recently upgraded their computers or have any that are not in use that they would like to donate to the project.
It’s hoped that everything will be ready to go by February for the start of the Iowa High School Esports Association’s spring season.
If anyone in the community would like to donate a computer to the project, contact Synergy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.