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New NHS e-sports team is 'enjoyable,' inclusive

Cary Ashby • Oct 22, 2019 at 11:00 AM

The Norwalk High School e-sports team is a good fit for junior Josh Nelson.

“I’ve been playing video games since I’ve been a little kid, so it’s really enjoyable to do something I enjoy as a sport,” he said.

After the “beta season,” the first official season will start at the beginning of February and run through early May. Currently, the NHS team has 23 members for the after-school activity.

“We are about to double that for the spring season,” said coach Joe Kaiser, who recently made a presentation to the Norwalk school board about e-sports.

Senior Lance Young said the team pushes gamers to be more sociable and helps members find “a comfort zone where they might not be.”

“A lot of people play video games at their house, so there’s not a lot of social interaction,” he added.

Kaiser said the team epitomizes the concepts of meeting people where they are and being inclusive.

“Anybody can come on board and join,” Kaiser said. “We want to make gaming a positive activity.”

There are 221 teams in 130 schools that are part of ESports Ohio, according to the school board presentation. Of those active teams, 137 are varsity squads and 20 teams are part of club activities.

Universities in Ohio also have e-sports teams, including: Tiffin, Ohio Northern, Lourdes, Ashland, Defiance, Shawnee State, Miami, Akron, Ohio State, Muskingum, Kent State, Mount Vernon Nazarene and Ohio Christian.

“Ohio State just got this going,” said Kaiser, who noted e-sports is “by far the largest student activity” at The University of Akron.

NHS was competing in its fourth week as of early October. E-sports is a seven-week season.

The Truckers team plays the following games: “League of Legends,” “Rocket League,” “Overwatch” and “Super Smash Bros.” According to the school board presentation, “there was careful thought and consideration” put into the choices, which are “some of the largest and most recognized e-sports in the world” and are widely played by area universities. Each game is rated teen, meaning they are suitable for all students ages 13 and older. 

“They all require different strategies,” said Kaiser, who equated the skill level to athletes excelling in various track events.

Junior Noah Blanton is the second seat for “Super Mash Bros.”

“It’s a Nintendo game and everybody loves Nintendo,” he said. 

NHS recently played Lima Shawnee, a state runner-up, in a recent competitive match. The Truckers said they were pleased with how well they played, especially since they are a new team.

“We won the first match in like 11 minutes,” senior Tyler Hall said.

Kaiser told the school board he expects e-sports to be around for a long time.

“This is not something that is going to get smaller,” he said. “People are excited to be a part of it.”

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