November 28, 2023
KO’s Esports Team Fosters Teamwork, Fitness, and Fun
by Ryan Brodeur
Co-Head Coach, KO Esports Team
When I tell people I coach a high-school computer gaming team, they might picture shy, un-athletic teenagers hunched over their laptops alone in the dark.
Forget that Stereotype
In fact, KO’s Esports team brings together 14 physically active students, both boys and girls, who compete in highly challenging, high-level competitions demanding mental acuity, complex coordination with teammates, and physical stamina and endurance.
Since its creation just three years ago, Wyvern Esports has established a program that provides students not only with exhilarating competition but also physical and mental fitness, self-confidence, technological expertise, and teamwork and sportsmanship skills.
A True Varsity Sport
Like any other sports team at KO, the esports squad practices for two hours daily. Each session begins with physical exercise to promote cardio fitness and muscle strength, including push-ups, squats, burpees, lunges, and jumping jacks. Then, working together as teams of four or six members at adjacent gaming consoles, they devise strategies, discuss tactics, and rehearse their skills in practice games.
Just as KO’s other teams are sanctioned and supported by interscholastic leagues and conferences, KO competes with other schools under the aegis of PlayVS, a national organization that provides game platforms, coaching tools, technical advisors, and tracking of team statistics.
On game days, each of KO’s three squads tests their skills as they outwit, outplay, and outmaneuver a team from another school in matches lasting from one to two hours. KO competes with several local schools, including Hall High School, East Hartford High School, Naugatuck High School, and other secondary school teams from across the Northeast. KO hosts the K.E.T. each fall, modeled on the popular K.I.T. basketball tournament. This Saturday event brings teams from several schools to the school’s fieldhouse for a full day of intense competition.
What Happens During an Esports Game?
Currently, KO’s esports teams play their games in one of two titles: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 3, both on Nintendo Switch. In Mario Kart, the player’s Nintendo characters maneuver fast-moving motorcycles and four-wheelers over an amusement park race course chock full of oddball obstacles and opponents. (Picture driving at high speed behind a truck spilling vegetables that turn into hand grenades.)
Before each Mario Kart game, teammates choose which devices to include in their “kits” to maximize their speed and scoring, and during the game, they communicate furiously as they coordinate decisions to win points and use pop-up “item boxes” that can boost their powers.
In Splatoon, the team controls a humanoid squid that splatters a high-tech landscape and opponents with brightly colored paint. (Picture a paintball game with guns that spew gallons of paint.) Teammates coordinate with one another to choose items of clothing and weapons that can optimize their performance.
Like all KO’s co-curricular programs teams, esports gives students the opportunity to:
• savor the satisfaction and joy of developing their physical and mental skills and sharpening their tactile, visual and auditory abilities.
• face stressful, intense, fast-paced challenges with calm deliberation
• compete within a framework of rules and good sportsmanship
• forge stamina, resilience, and self-esteem.
• learn how to be part of a group by formulating strategies, resolving conflicts, listening to the ideas of others, and adapting to the strengths and weaknesses of teammates and opponents.
Moreover, by learning to use digital technology in a multi-media environment, to improvise workarounds, and to move in three different directions at once, KO’s esports players are well prepared to thrive in the high-tech environment of the future.
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