With Nationals now a wrap, the High School Esports League (HSEL) has completed its first full season of operation. Hosting tournaments in the fall, winter, holiday, and spring seasons, HSEL allows teams from across the United States to compete in various games in order to qualify for Nationals.
This past year, the top teams from each Major were granted qualification to compete in Nationals for a chance to win upwards of $15,000 in scholarships for their team, a trophy to display at their school, and a bid to be in next year’s Nationals. This year’s Nationals included Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Rocket League, and Hearthstone.
St. Louis Park High School (SLP HS) took first place in Overwatch, receiving $15,000 in team scholarships. When asked about why they decided to join HSEL, and specifically Nationals, Jeremy, also known as ToastyBatNip said, “My team and I won the fall season and we qualified, so we took it, and it was the best experience I could have been a part of…Some players, like our healers, would have preferred to be DPS, but everyone was good at what they did and we all wanted to be a team.”
"With the prize money from Nationals, I will not have to go into debt with college loans"
Around game time, Maxwell, otherwise known as WarWalrus, said that the team was both “confident and nervous” leading up to it. When they were in the lead, he said, “we felt fantastic, and when we weren’t, it all became very tense.” Looking back on the regular season, Maxwell stated that it was enjoyable; that “some games were more intense than others, but overall it was a great experience,”
He said the entire experience “made you feel like a pro gamer.”
In League of Legends (LoL), Sycamore High School (Aves eSports) took first place and received $12,500 in team scholarships. When asked how the HSEL club began at Sycamore High School, Kyle, better known as Levidia in League of Legends, said this: “We joined because we liked playing LoL a lot, and we watched worlds in 2016. So, in the coming school year, sitting in choir class and playing LoL, we thought ‘why not make a team for the school?’ Our mid-laner, Aidan, aka PrimeRhymeat9, was masters at the time, so we all thought we could have fun and learn more about the game from him. We decide to make the club three days beforehand, and I don’t know how it happened, but we got everything ready in those three days. I’m glad we all got to play and have this experience.”
"It feels really great knowing my mother supports me and shares my passion.”
Kyle added that since he was going to play LoL in college, “Getting practice in this environment helped me out a lot.” As the conversation shifted to their thoughts on how the team’s experience was, Mark, known as OmgitsHero, said this: “I know there are times when we’ve made a mistake or done something wrong, but that’s alright since as a team we know we can come back later and fix anything that was done wrong in the game. Winning is great for sure, but even if we lose, it doesn’t matter, because the friends made throughout the tournaments within my own team and other teams cannot be matched.”
This obviously was the case when learning that Aidan, The Aves Esports mid-laner, had to be in North Dakota for a tournament during the grand finals. Kyle related how he “had his team reschedule their games so he could play in Nationals with us.” This act truly shows the bond created within the team. He also adds that while it was not an issue, there were a few days when people on the team had to reschedule work days in order to play.
Kyle then goes on to speak about how his family was very supportive of him competing in Nationals, because “they realized it was more than me sitting down and playing games.” He continued, saying how his mom, not knowing how long LoL games can take, “would always yell downstairs (asking) if we won yet. I actually gave her the livestream link for her to watch the [Grand Final] game and she did. It feels really great knowing my mother supports me and shares my passion.”
Looking back on their entire season with HSEL, Mark reminisced how “It was a great experience,” how they “fought against some really, really good teams, making the experience better.” When asked about the future, Kyle chimed in and said that he would be playing LoL for Miami University in Oxford, and is excited to be mentored by their team since they are all masters at the game. He then adds that “with the prize money from Nationals, I will not have to go into debt with college loans. I never thought going into freshman year that I would not have to pay for college because I play competitive LoL.”
"[My parents] realized it was more than me sitting down and playing games"
Competing is not only about winning. It is about the experience gained through making friends, becoming more skillful in the game and on a team, and the drive it ignites in everyone to continue to do better for themselves and others. The HSEL strives to make this a reality for anyone wishing and willing to participate. With thousands of schools signed up throughout The United States, the prospect of Highschool esports becomes less a niche dream and more of an obtainable reality.
Interested students can follow this link to learn how to sign up their school for HSEL programs.