NEW RICHMOND -- Starting next fall, sports glory won’t be just for athletes on the field or court at New Richmond High School.
With approval from the School Board earlier this academic year, the New Richmond High School eSports Club will work hard this spring semester to prepare its computers and its members for the rigors of a full season in the Wisconsin High School E-Sports Association.
“The club is currently working with the school’s tech department to help set up our computers for league play. Right now, we have 12 students who have confirmed they want to be part of the club. Currently, we aren’t holding tryouts, but we will once we get everything up and running before next season,” staff adviser Trent Bennig said. “We also haven’t opened the club up to the rest of the school yet because we want to make sure we have things running smoothly before we bring in more people.”
A total of 82 teams are signed up for the spring season, Bennig said, which is twice as many teams when compared to the 2018-2019 season. Teams from across the state split up into smaller leagues to battle it out during the regular season. The spring season concludes with the state tournament in mid-March.
“I wanted to join the club because I’ve loved playing games for a long time and really thought we should have a club at the high school. Starting this club brings me a certain degree of pride since it will be something that will live on after I graduate,” senior Caleb Armstrong said. “Although it isn’t really the same as other athletic sports, the competition is similar. You can get really into a match and get a similar feeling to other sports.”
According to Bennig, the school year is split into two seasons — fall and spring — with teams competing at the varsity and JV levels. During the fall season, students compete in matches of “Overwatch” and “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.” The second season for eSports consists of matches in “League of Legends” and “Rocket League.”
“For me, pushing to start the league revolved around wanting to bring people together and work on team-building type things. There are also a lot of opportunities these days to get scholarships for esports. Besides that, it is just fun to be part of a league like this with your friends,” senior Jeremy Henze said.
The NRHS eSports Club will take part in scrimmages of “League of Legends” and “Rocket League” this spring while trying to smooth out any wrinkles that might pop up before the club fully joins the league in the fall. For “League of Legends,” teams consist of five members and two alternates, while “Rocket League” features teams of two.
On a league match day, students will meet after school prior to the 4 p.m. start time of that day’s match. Rocket League matches take about 20 minutes, Bennig said, but League of Legends matches can take up to an hour to finish.
“We will start tryouts next fall since there is a maximum number of players you can have on the varsity team, depending on which game you are playing. But we can have an unlimited number of members on the JV team, which will allow more students to practice and get better so they have a chance to make the varsity team in the future,” Bennig said. “We will take a look at our talent next year and make sure everyone is getting practice in to get better.”
According to Bennig, the Computer Club, which has been in existence since 2004, helped to raise the funds to purchase the games and equipment the E-Sports Club needed to compete in the state league. The club had to purchase Overwatch and Rocket League, which runs on a computer, and a Nintendo Switch to play Super Smash Brothers. League of Legends is a free-to-play online game.
“As the vice president of the club, I know that it took a lot to get everything going. I think it is cool that we can bring this to the school since it is a long time coming,” said junior Zach Johnson. “Being part of the esports club kind of gives you the glory of being in a sport without the pressure and needing to exercise all the time. It will also allow us to spread the gaming culture.”
According to Bennig, the closest team to New Richmond is Clear Lake, although St. Croix Central has recently expressed interest in the league as well.
“As a senior, I won’t get to be part of the full league next year. But it still means a lot to me to be able to set up the league for other students. I’m really excited that the league will bring together students who like gaming every week and allow them to become friends,” Henze said.
For more information on the Wisconsin High School E-Sports Association, visit wihsea.org.