North Dakota high schools prepare for first-ever eSports season

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An unconventional “sports” season is about to begin in North Dakota.

Mandan High School is one of 14 schools in the state to take up eSports, which turn video games into sporting activities for students. The school’s welding instructor Stephen Kessler will be the new head coach.

Kessler says much of the activity will be trial and error since it’s so new. At Mandan, eSport athletes will have 14 stations and will compete in the games League of Legends and Rocket League.

He says they’ll practice two to three hours a day depending on how many people sign up. If the program proves to be popular, they will have to rotate students in and out.

Kessler hopes that the eSports program will stop the negative stigma of gaming and bring more people together.

“We have seen it around the nation with the celebrities and the athletes doing it and I think that’s what’s going to happen here at Mandan,” says Kessler. “I think their son or daughter is going to tell them ‘hey I’m going to go out for the eSports team’ and they are going to kind of be astonished and be like really I did not know that or you are going to see that outstanding athlete that people did expect and is a hardcore gamer. I do believe that is going to happen and I do think a lot of people will be surprised by it.”

Mandan students will be competing over the internet at the high school, so no travel is required. While gaming might sound like an individual activity, Kessler says it will be a good way to make special connections.

“Building the relationship with the students and having the students build a bigger larger community that they can game with. That aspect of communication, friendships that’s what I am looking forward to this season is getting to know those students who game and how can they make more friends within the school,” Kessler says.

The school spent about $20,000 for the eSports lab. Kessler says he hopes the program can add more games and other consoles in the future, but that will be up to the state depending on how this year goes.

The eSports season will run through January or February, depending on how many teams are formed in the state.

Mandan doesn’t know officially how many students will be on the team, but over 180 students expressed interest in being on the eSports team. An informational meeting is happening on September 5th.

North Dakota Schools with eSport Teams:

  • Central Cass High School
  • Dakota Prairie High School
  • Drayton High School
  • Grand Forks Central High School
  • Hillsboro High School
  • Larimore High School
  • Mandan High School
  • Minnewaukan High School
  • Northern Cass High School
  • Northwood High School
  • Red River High School
  • Rugby High School
  • Westhope High School
  • Williston High School

Bismarck State College, University of Jamestown, and Dickinson State University are also launching teams this year

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