The student news site of Plainfield High School Central Campus

The Fielder

The student news site of Plainfield High School Central Campus

The Fielder

The student news site of Plainfield High School Central Campus

The Fielder

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Esports offers opportunities for college

The+esports+team+at+Illinois+State+competes+in+a+recent+tournament.
Photo courtesy of Illinois State University
The esports team at Illinois State competes in a recent tournament.

After years of having a tough reputation, negative stereotypes, and being hidden in the shadows of traditional athletics, esports are rapidly gaining popularity and attention, especially at the collegiate level, where students can earn big scholarships, according to Illinois State University officials.
As colleges begin to accept esports and offer more scholarships, high schools are slowly beginning to adapt to this change.
“Every year we are expanding more and more in terms of what games we’re competing with, which leads to more kids,” Kathleen Baggot, math teacher and esports coach, said.
With this popularity, more money is being put into high school esports to support the teams. For example, bus transportation and tournament fees are now being covered by the school, as they were not before.
“There is definitely more of an awareness now than there was a couple of years ago when we first started,” Baggot said.
Students at high school are encouraged to look into college-level esports and the opportunities being offered to them.
“I’m currently talking with the coach at Carthage College about joining the team in two years,” senior Daniel Vita, esports player, said.
Vita is planning to follow in his brother’s footsteps. His brother, Jacob Vita, a college esports player, was the first person on Central’s esports team to receive an esports scholarship for college. Vita has had a great experience and has loved competing at the college level.
“Just like any sport, esports gives me a form of positive stress; I feel the need to improve at the game and compete at a higher level, which is something I truly enjoy,” Vita said.
Although there is more support on the high school level than before, it can be harder to gain players on these lower levels because not all parents realize the benefits of esports. Some see video games as violent or a waste of time.
“It is still surprising to parents that you can earn scholarships or that there are other opportunities that you can participate in esports outside of being a gamer itself,” David Kirk, Director of Redbird Esports at Illinois State, said.
Another helpful aspect on the high school level has been IHSA officially recognizing esports as one of its activities and the creation of IHSEA (Illinois High School Esports Association).
“I know that most high schools right now are looking at what colleges are doing, so as the collegiate landscape continues to explode I think there will be more support at the high school level,” Kirk said.
Universities like Illinois State have played a big role in the rise of collegiate esports, and have been a model for other colleges across the country.
“In just our first year we made a lot of headlines, and it gave the program a lot of recognition,” Kirk said.
One factor that assisted in the popularity of esports was Covid. When everything was shut down, esports did not have to stop, which gave them an advantage over traditional athletics because they did not have to compete for coverage.
“We maintained the ability to compete against other universities to provide our students an opportunity to have something to watch and to have something to cheer for in a time that was extremely stressful for them,” Kirk said.
With gaining popularity, ISU, along with other universities, was able to fund more money for esports and create better programs.
“[ISU] also gave us resources to build out facilities like our brand new esports arena,” Kirk said.
Another variable was the coaching staff. Illinois State was able to hire three head coaches for their varsity esports teams. Along with this, a lot of student jobs have opened up to help run the big and growing esports programs. These jobs help students prepare for managing and leadership for future careers.
“When it comes to the team’s events, I will help them sign their paperwork, show them what needs to get done, give them important information like parking, where they need hotels, situations like that,” Eden Jobgen, Redbird Esports Network Events and Outreach Coordinator, said.
Students love to be involved in the program, whether it is the career aspect, competing, or just playing games for fun. Drew Neiburger, varsity player, said that there is mutual respect between players; they are all friends; and that he loves the sense of camaraderie on the team.
“No matter what level of play you’re at, there is a team you can play on, and basically anyone who tries out will get a spot on the team,” Matthew Gisi, Redbird Gaming Club President, said.

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About the Contributor
Brooke Plowman, Editor-in-Chief
Hi!! I am so excited to be back, this year as the Editor-in-Chief. I am also on the dance team, an officer for both Key Club and Care Club, and a member of NHS and Link Crew!

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