Interscholastic competition entered a new realm at Blair in 2020 with the launch of the School’s first-ever esports club. As part of a national high school esports league, more than 25 Bucs will compete in online games such as Counter Strike, Super Smash Brothers, Valorant and more for national championships and potential college scholarships.
The mission of the esports club is to offer organized competitive gaming to Blair students while promoting physical, mental and social health and helping them to develop 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Throughout the fall, club members have met in person about every two weeks to get to know one another, discuss gaming strategies and plan for upcoming competitions. Participants also communicate remotely through a Discord channel, an instant-messaging platform designed to create community. Players are grouped together in small teams in certain games and play individually in others.
Blair’s esports team is part of the High School Esports League (HSEL), a national organization offering opportunities for students to engage in healthy esports competition. The HSEL also offers a STEM.org-accredited curriculum that emphasizes career-ready skills and social-emotional learning. Students have the opportunity to compete in national HSEL tournaments in each game, in which they could earn a championship and possible college scholarship money at the end of the season.
Esports have now entered the college space, and teams have been established at a host of schools, including Rutgers University, The Ohio State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Oklahoma and the University of California-Irvine. For students who excel at esports, thousands of dollars in scholarships are available, as well as roster spots on collegiate teams.
Robotics teacher Mike Garrant, sports information director Rhett Moroses ’13, science teacher Joseph Wagner and math teacher Chadd Clairmont ’09 serve as advisors of Blair’s esports club. “Studies have shown that organized esports provide tremendous benefits for students,” Mr. Moroses said, citing Pew Research Center data showing that students who join esports programs have better attendance and earn better grades. “Thus far, we’ve been impressed by the amount of interest and participation we have in our club. It is exciting to see students collaborate on a team focused on a common goal.”
The esports club’s student leaders include Petra Csanyi ’22, Chris Tung ’22, Max Coblenz ’24 and Jack Cong ’23, and they are all enthusiastic about their participation on Blair’s newest competitive team. “The most exciting things about starting this club are getting together with classmates who share a passion for gaming and competing in a real team environment,” said Petra. “It’s also nice to socialize with the team while playing together and having fun.”
“I enjoy playing video games at Blair because it brings the community together in a fun and inclusive way of meeting and bonding with people,” said Chris. “Moreover, I've made several friends and have grown undoubtedly closer to them because of video games.”
“Video games relax me when I am stressed out or tired,” said Jack. “But my favorite thing about gaming is the competitiveness and the cooperation between teammates, whether or not we know each other.”
Even though this is the first year of Blair esports, the club leaders aspire to grow the program and eventually compete in all the available games. “I never imagined that we would successfully establish an esports club and face off against other high schools,” said Chris. “My goal for the club is to bring the joy that video games give me to kids who want to build relationships with others. The esports club can create a camaraderie unmatched by any previous video game club because, similar to sports teams at Blair, we can grow together as we train together.”