E Sports Comes to BR
While many students look forward to an upcoming season of football, cheer, basketball, or speech, a new extracurricular at Bancroft-Rosalie (B-R) schools provides students a chance to practice a unique sport.
That activity is electronic sports, known as “esports,” which involves students playing different types of video games online against other players and schools.
B-R Elementary and Junior High teacher Jacob Cole coaches esports at the school for grades 7-12. The 2022-2023 school year is the first year it was implemented. Cole said on average he has 15 B-R students that compete in esports each season.
The students practice after school two to three times a week for a couple hours in Cole’s classroom on computers or Nintendo Switches.
Similar to the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), there is also a Nebraska Schools Esports Association (NSESA). NSESA has a board which makes all the bylaws, competition rules, and other policies for the member schools to follow.
B-R is a member along with about 75 schools in the state of Nebraska who competed this year— a number that has grown vastly over the past few years, Cole said.
The NSESA is separated into four divisions similar to the class system in the NSAA. With Division 1 encompassing larger, metro schools like the Class A schools up to Division 4 which are smaller schools similar to Class D. B-R is in Division 4.
Esports has a fall, winter, and spring season and schools can opt for how many seasons they want to participate in. B-R competes in all three seasons and each season has different genres of games for the kids to compete in.
“The kids really enjoy Mario Kart, and the teachers love that one, too,” Cole said. “Another one the kids really enjoy is Valorant, a first person role-playing game.”
Cole said what he enjoys most about coaching esports is that it fills a need for kids who don’t want to play traditional sports.
“They might be the ones who feel like outcasts in school, so giving them this chance to come together and giving them a sense of purpose and something to be proud of has been really neat to see for me as a teacher and coach,” Cole said
He has noticed that some of the most introverted kids have taken on a social personality and friendliness by interacting with their teammates through esports.
Cole also noted another academic benefit of esports. “Many of the local colleges in our area do offer some sort of scholarship to high school seniors,” he said.
Just like any other sport, esports players also have their own jerseys. Cole gave his students input about what they wanted the jerseys to look like this year and they decided on a light blue jersey featuring a panther.
Gabrielle Gatzemeyer is a junior at B-R who joined esports this year. Gabrielle said she’s enjoyed being a part of esports because she was able to meet new people in the sport and learn games she had never played before.
“My experience this year in esports has been pretty fun,” Gabrielle said. “It didn't seem like there was a lot of interest in esports in previous years, so I still wish we had it sooner because I could've had more time to get good and have fun playing games sooner.”
Hayden Bridges is an eighth grader at B-R who also joined esports. He said he enjoys seeing the progress he and his teammates make practicing the different games.
“Teamwork is a big thing in many of the games we are playing and we are trying to improve that as well,” Hayden said. “The more experienced players are trying to help [their teammates] get better at the games. We usually practice for two hours and always have a good time. So, my experience in esports this year has been good.”
Cole said B-R parents, teachers and administration have been very supportive of the program.
He noted that just like any other sport, students have to be in good academic standing to participate.
Each season is roughly six to eight regular season weeks followed by playoffs for an additional two to three weeks. Qualifying teams then make that season’s state tournament.
The state tournaments are held at different colleges across Nebraska.
Though no one at B-R has made state yet, Cole noted student Daytona Sparks was one win away from qualifying for state with the game Smash Bros Ultimate 1v1.
The NSESA also awards medals to players that place first through fourth at the state tournaments and trophies for first and second place.
Cole said because of the many benefits esports provides students, he hopes other schools will be interested in starting up an esports program at their school, too.
He welcomes any other teachers or administrators to ask him questions or come observe an esports practice day in his classroom.
Cole noted that the esports program at B-R “would not have been possible without the support of the administration and school board here, most specifically, Dr. Cerny.”
He noted that superintendent Dr. Jon Cerny was a big proponent of starting the esports program at B-R and provided the program with new PC’s, Nintendo Switches, gaming chairs, and “countless other forms of equipment that we use currently.”
While he said the basic electronics are required, schools don’t need state-of-the-art equipment to join esports.
From providing a unique sporting activity to students, to socialization among different grades and providing a sense of community and belonging, Cole noted esports was a great addition to B-R’s extra curricular programming.
“It’s had a really positive impact on our school,” he said.