Esports team that grew out of pandemic sees a bright future
On a Wednesday evening late last last month, a team of Georgetown County students gathered in a circle to stretch before a competition.
The students from all four high schools did exercises to loosen the muscles in their neck, their back and their hands.
No need to stretch leg muscles for the members of the school district’s esports team. These athletes compete in video game tournaments.
Matthews Capps, a senior at Carvers Bay High School, played video games as a hobby before joining the team last year. He said there’s a lot more at stake when you’re playing a game competitively.
“You try to focus and you try your best. Just like a sport,” he added. “Playing with friends is casual, you’re just there to have a good time.”
The school district started the esports team in the spring of 2022 in response to so many extracurricular activities being either limited or canceled during the pandemic. COVID relief funds were used to purchase equipment for a gaming lab down the hall from where the school board meets at the Beck Administration Building.
Coach Paul Morris, who teaches at Andrews High School, and Kevin McQuay, a senior at Andrews High, gave a presentation on esports to the school board last month.
Morris touted leadership, responsibility, discipline, technological literacy, communication and commitment as benefits of the team for students.
“I like the opportunity to be able to create relationships and build skills with people from all around this area and playing against people I probably will never see in my life but still have a good conversation with them,” McQuay told the board members. He hopes to join a college esports team next year.
It’s the second year on the team for McQuay.
“The first year, it was kind of like a startup,” he said. “I feel like it will get better from here, with everyone actually being younger so they can go through the program way longer.”
It’s also the second year on the team for Ariel Holloway, a sophomore at Andrews High.
“It’s different people but it’s still fun,” said Holloway, who is interested in designing video games.
The favorite game for Holloway and McQuay to compete in is “Overwatch.” McQuay also likes “Valorant.”
“‘Overwatch’ is a game where we can have fun. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. But we still have fun,” McQuay said. “With ‘Valorant,’ it’s a bit more competitive so it weighs on us a little bit more if we lose. ‘Overwatch’ not as much since we don’t take it that serious.”
“Valorant” is also the favorite game of Landon Stewart, a freshman at Waccamaw High School, who joined the team this year after a teacher recommended it.
“It seemed cool,” Stewart said.
Morris likes having freshmen on the team this year.
“They were very excited to do this because it’s an after-school program that’s also with juniors and seniors,” he said. “With a lot of sports and after-school stuff, there’s always JV and there’s always varsity. This is not like that at all.”
This year the High School Esports League added Nintendo games such as “Mario Kart,” “Splatoon” and “Super Smash Bros.”
Morris said “Super Smash Brothers” is one of the most competitive games Nintendo produces. The team members compete in “Super Smash Brothers” tournaments at home on Mondays.
Last season Morris was responsible for dealing with the esports league help desk when decisions had to be made about games before or during tournaments. This season the seniors who were on the team last year, like McQuay and Capps, have been taking over those duties.
“They’ve got it all covered. They don’t ask me any questions,” Morris said. “They just take it and roll with it.”