Sixteen-year-old Haidyn Legner has never been part of a school sporting team, until now. The sophomore at Holmes High School has joined the schools’ Esports, a new sport that is taking Kentucky students by storm.
“This gives students like me a chance to do something they are good at,” said Haidyn. “So, if they aren’t good at sports, they could be good at Esports. It’s a good way to get students involved in school instead of sitting on the sidelines. It will be popular, I guarantee it. A lot of people play video games.”
Esports allows students to play videogames competitively. More than 200 colleges and universities offer Esports scholarships and are actively recruiting players for Esports programs. Esports relies on constant communication, collaboration, planning and execution. Ken Ellis, Holmes athletic director, believes Esports will help break down barriers among diverse student groups and involve students who might not otherwise join a team sport.
“Competitive Esports builds a lot of the same skills that athletic sports do, minus the athleticism,” Ellis said.
Holmes had its first practice earlier this month. Other students are encouraged to join. Competition starts in March. The Esports team is coached by Holmes teachers Tim Dodenhoff and Kyle Hagedorn. Hagedorn, an English teacher, who plays Rocket League in his free time, said he has wanted a team at Holmes for a while.
“This allows kids who maybe aren’t interested in normal athletics to do something that they enjoy, and they can be part of the school culture in a different way,” Hagedorn said.
Superintendent Alvin Garrison said that’s the whole idea of offering Esports at Holmes - to give more students more options to get involved in school. Garrison points to studies that show that students who are engaged in extracurricular activities do better in class, have more friends and have a positive experience with school as opposed to those who do not participate.
Students agree. They are so excited about Esports. Brandon Riley, 14, said he has been playing video games for about four years. He said his skills are “decent” and he looks forward to being part of Esports.
“Instead of just doing after school programming, I can play games and have fun and be part of a team,” Brandon said. It’s a creative idea.”
Jacob Allen, 17, said Esports is fun and entertaining. “As long as your hands work, you can play a game,” the senior said. “You don’t have to be athletic and stuff. I like playing games and I can play competitively. When I heard about it, I was like, ‘I am down.’”
Dallas Lake, 15, said being part of the team has other benefits as well. For him, it’s motivation. Even though he is a good student, Dallas said during COVID, he has struggled with online classes and got behind in some of his courses.
Esports participants have the same rules and regulations as any other athlete at Holmes for keeping good attitudes, grades and attendance in school.
“When I found out about Esports at Holmes, I started doing my work, a lot, and now I am all caught up,” he said. “First of all, I really don’t want to fail school and second, I want to be able to compete in the Esports competition.”
Dallas plans to tell more friends about Esports. He knows they will be interested.
“This is amazing that my high school is offering this,” Dallas said. “I was very excited immediately. I am just glad that my school is reaching out to kids that have different skill sets that are not athletic.”