Dean Brink plays lacrosse at Jefferson Academy and knows about working hard to master his technique and to be a leader for the team.
His leadership is being used in another way this fall towards another passion of his.
Brink is one of the team captains for an Overwatch esports team in Jefferson Academy’s esports club. The captain is the point of contact for opposing teams to get in touch with and pass along gamertags used to connect with each other online for competitive matches. As for his team at the school, Brink is one of the players leading his team with strategy, practices and more to make sure everyone is playing together and at a high level in competition.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” Brink said. “I get to go after school, take some time out of doing homework and play video games and call it a sport. I get CHSAA notification for it and I get varsity points towards colleges to play video games, which is something I’ve done the last seven or eight years for fun in my room.”
Lined up with Brink in the computer lab for their esports competition are some of his close friends — Gaige Stanley, Keegan Cook and Connor Beasley. The four are joined by freshmen Seth Lundberg and Jacob Bloom to form a team, and they have worked together to build their chemistry and skill sets to mesh together on the battlefield online. Their team got off to a good start winning the first two Overwatch matches of the fall season back in October.
More than anything, the team is enjoying playing together in a club that has received plenty of attention so far this year.
“I’m used to playing Xbox with Dean and my other friends,” Beasley said. “A lot of games like Overwatch are not difficult. Anyone can play them and get good at them in a day or two.”
At Broomfield High School, friendships are also playing a role in the teams being set up for competition. JoAngel Marquez and Tony Amaya have a history of playing video games with each other and have recently teamed up as part of Broomfield’s esports club. The two are currently playing Rocket League and will have official team competitions in the spring season of CHSAA’s pilot program.
“We both bought the game for home and are practicing all the time when we are home,” Marquez said. “In our spare time, we play online together against other people. We’re playing against them trying to get better.”
Their friendships and passion of playing video games brought them to join the esports clubs, but many students also view the club as an opportunity to take their talents to the next level. Just like an athlete training and using resources to get recruited to play in college, students who play esports can also take their talents to the next level and play in college and beyond.
One part of the training students at both schools have utilized for their respective clubs and the games they play is to watch and follow professional esports players that compete online and in their competitions. Today, esports is a billion-dollar industry with competitions broadcast online as well as on television and streaming services. Some of the biggest stars receive as much attention online with their social media accounts as the top athletes in other professional sports and other celebrities in the world.
Whether it’s watching these stars play in a sold-out arena for a tournament or a smaller battle streamed online, students at Broomfield and Jefferson Academy are watching how they play and taking lessons with them for their competitions.
“Recently I’ve been looking up YouTubers for League of Legends to get better, and before that I was watching pros play other games, too,” Amaya said.
Whether any of the esports participants go on and play professionally remains to be seen, but they are aware about the opportunity to earn a scholarship and play in college, a spot where esports is on the rise.
According to NACE, a governing body for esports at the collegiate level, over 150 schools currently are members and participate in esports. Many schools have invested funding to build esports arenas and labs for players to utilize, and they have people that scout and recruit potential players, just like coaches of athletic teams do.
“Now that people can actually make money and get scholarships for it, it’s getting recognized as a national sport,” Brink said. “People are hesitant about that, but eventually they will get past that and accept it. They will find it as something enjoyable to watch.”
For most of the students, they play just to play the game. Some are hopeful that they will receive a scholarship and potentially continue at the next level. But all want people to know they feel that esports is here to stay and they feel more will come from it in the near future.
“You should join with a few of your friends,” Beasley said. “It’s basically the same as playing video games at home, but you can get (scholarship) money. There’s no reason not to join.”