News from 2020-2021

Posted: October 22, 2020

APS Esports is Thriving

Students are able to continue playing esports while maintaining safety and distance requirements.

Last year's Del Norte Esports Team

Last year's Del Norte Esports Team

Because of COVID restrictions and our virtual learning environment, most traditional sports and activities at APS have been canceled along with in-person classes. But APS students are able to continue playing esports while maintaining safety and distance requirements. Because esports can be done virtually, APS students are participating in games with other students and other schools across the state — all online.

Del Norte Esports Coach Marta Anderson explained that because of the COVID pod situation, which allows only 5 people in the computer lab at one time, including the coach, they will not be playing Smite and League of Legends this season, as each of those teams has 5 players. With the coach, that would be 6 in the lab and would violate the order. Instead, they have one Rocket League Varsity team as each requires only 3 players.

Following social distancing rules, the team can practice safely while adhering to the governor’s rules. The two Rocket League Junior Varsity teams play and compete from home on their own consoles. The Del Norte Esports teams are participating in the Fall Esports season with PlayVS, and play competitively on Thursdays against teams across the state.  

Most esports teams began from club activities, and Del Norte currently has 29 students in their esports club. Here, younger students have fun, make friends, hone their skills, and some eventually join the team.

That’s how Kevin Tran, a senior at La Cueva, began esports at school. Starting in 9th grade, before esports was an NMAA approved activity, he joined the school's club and said that he made friends, enjoyed playing games and being around like-minded people. Now their club has about 40 students, and they have 4 Rocket League teams and 3 League of Legends teams that are participating in the Fall Season with PlayVS. All of their practices and games are online and conducted from home.

"This year is different,” Kevin said, expressing how amazing it has been to see esports grow from a club to official esports teams that compete with other schools. His parents have also changed their views on gaming as they watched him make friends while keeping up his grades and always completing his schoolwork. “It’s really cool,” he noted, “going from playing games with friends to competing on the varsity team.” Kevin plans to attend college in either New Mexico, Colorado or Texas, and will pursue a degree in engineering.

“Esports helped strengthen my time management skills and develop a sense of responsibility,” he explained.

Two of Marta Anderson’s Varsity Esports players are applying to UNM for esports scholarships. One former esports player from Albuquerque High School is currently attending UNM and has joined their esports team.

These stories are common nationwide. According to Lori Bajorek, president of the National Esports Association, competitive gaming is more than just a hobby; it’s a catalyst for the development of life skills for a whole generation of young people.

“We say ‘play with a purpose,’” she said. “It’s creating an online community of inclusiveness and diversity where we all feel we can win and grow together.”

During these tough times, esports teams support each other in various ways. Coach Marta Anderson says that Del Norte Esports players meet on their Discord channel every night at 6 pm, just to ensure that everyone is doing fine. “If they have homework, I help them.” And, she says the students meet by video every other Monday, when she arranges guest speakers. Recently, they met with an Army team, a University of San Diego team, and with coaches and players from Florida State. “They give my students advice, offer management tips for coaches, and most importantly, our meetings keep the students connected.”

Kevin Tran says that his team stays connected via their Discord Channel. “We talk, play games, and it is really important to us that we have a connection with each other right now.”

This year, APS Esports is helping schools and students build clubs and teams. Almost all traditional high schools have clubs and 6 are competing in the PlayVS Fall Season. Remote learning has not stopped esports, which continues to grow and expand across the state and across the nation.

Watch the KRQE News Story on APS Esports

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