Wrightstown adds eSports to lineup

Brian Roebke photos
Wrightstown High School Technology and Engineering Instructor and team coach Scott Hannemann (right) speaks about the new eSports team at the March board of education meeting while senior Will Crary listens. The team is in its first season competing with about 40 schools from around the state.

By Brian Roebke
Wrightstown High School has a formidable sports program and area schools now have yet another Wrightstown team to contend with.
Activities Director Craig Haese, Network Administrator Kris Baeten, and Technology and Engineering Instructor Scott Hannemann attended the March board of education along with seniors Brady Schomaker, Will Crary, and Colton Eberhardy to explain the program.
eSports is growing in popularity across the country at the high school and collegiate level.
How popular?
Ahman Green, the Green Bay Packers leading career rusher, is an eSports entrepreneur and longtime player, resigned his position with the Freedom High School football team two years ago to become the first coach of Lakeland University’s new eSports program.
Schomaker and Mason Wesener asked Haese in fall about starting a team and just a few months later, it’s happening.
They told Haese even if they can only do intramurals this year they can start it for more kids down the road.
Haese said that spurred him into action.
eSports is playing sports with video games in organized, multi-player competitions. Play is done from the amateur to the professional level.
Rocket League is a game of three players on each team that plays soccer with rocket-powered cars.
“You can jump, you can boost, you can fly through the air, and score as many goals as you can in a little tournament where you play the best of three,” Crary said.
He’s had a hard journey learning how to play the game going from just trying to hit the ball to being able to fly through the air in any way you can imagine. “That’s been an exciting journey that I’ve been able to share with my friends,” he said. “Now, after all this quarantine and coronavirus stuff, we’re able to do it in person together against other schools, people of our age, and we get to be around people our age.”
He’s proud to be setting the foundation for eSports at Wrightstown, hoping generations of future students can have the same fun experience he’s having.
Wrightstown has about 25 students on the team, including all four grades and both genders, with Baeten and Hanneman coaching them.
They wanted to make sure it doesn’t conflict with robotics, but they’ve found a lot of the eSports players are not in robotics, so it’s giving students an additional opportunity to participate in a school group.
Schomaker said he learned how to play video games when he was young but being able to play for the school is very uplifting. “When we were young just playing against random people, now we get to play against other schools, I think it’s a lot more fun,” he said.
Eberhardy is the team’s Smite expert and really enjoys it. Smite is a third-person game where a player gets four abilities and when they progress through the game, they can upgrade those abilities to fight against the other team. It’s a very difficult game, however, because he’s played it for four years and only considers himself mediocre.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved in it because there’s some games where you can’t really prepare for it but in this you get to pick roles from different classes which really changes up the game,” he said.
Baeten was never a gamer but she’s had a lot of fun watching the students. “It’s just unbelievable,” she said. “They’re doing a great job and having fun doing it.”
Hanneman said they’re playing against more than 40 schools and there are six Rocket League teams and one Smite team.
“It’s fun seeing them collaborate, and we’re starting to work on developing our strategies,” he said, noting Smite is a very intense team sport because it pits five players against five players and they must build upon each other’s skills.”
The team is together for about two hours after school every Tuesday afternoon.
They’ve competed in two pre-season and one regular season tournament and getting the hang of how it works.
Baeten hopes the school can build a lab for them because the tech ed room is used every hour of the day and there’s not much open time on those computers.
Team members can practice at home if they have good enough hardware and internet connections.
Superintendent Carla Buboltz thought it was cool when she heard one of them say “play for our school.”
She also liked the statement of “setting up for a future generation” and students thankful to be part of a team.
“I would have never thought about those things when Mr. Haese talked about eSports,” she said.
Eberhardy’s mother noted parents usually want to limit the amount of screen time their children have but she’s seen so many positives come out of this because as an experienced player, he’s helping others.
“Putting him in a teacher role has been super exciting,” she said.
eSports has both fall and spring seasons. There are different games in the fall and spring.
Crary said eSports allows students to create careers to create college paths but can be a team winning championships and breaking records just like basketball and football teams are.
Baeten noted one technical college is offering scholarships as part of the awards they’re giving for high school participants.