If you’ve ever been a student athlete, the thought of earning a letter for anything other than athletics seems surreal. But a sign of the times is now being considered in the Vermilion Schools, where students 14 and up can possibly earn a letter in, of all things, E-sports. According to Asst. Supt./Curriculum Director Lisa Deliz, “It’s kind of a new thing. There are kids getting actual scholarships for colleges. It might blow some of our minds…it’s pretty common in other school districts.”
VHS Principal Jennifer Bengele said, “Keep an open mind” before describing the program at Monday’s Vermilion Board of Education meeting. Bengele said the goal at the high school was to get more student involvement and ownership in the school, and one of the ways to do this is through participation. Bengele reported Vermilion High School currently had roughly 38% of the student body participating in extracurricular activities last year. “We’d like to take that to about 50% this year.” She said there is a section of the student body that are not traditional athletes and are not into other club offerings. She said the district was able to connect with one of the creators of the E-sports Organization of Ohio. She said it is what it sounds like. There are a series of games, and students from one district play students from another district. She said this is a form of the Cedar Point E-sports arena, which will break ground by the end of this year. Bengele said they are building this to hold competitions and E-sports events. Over 30 Ohio universities and colleges offer scholarships in this. She said an Amherst student was consistently on the top boards for League of Legends and was offered a full ride to an Ohio college. Bengele said there are 50 districts on the state that have a varsity E-sports team, and many of them fall under the umbrella of athletics in these districts, and there are very strict regulations covering this type of competition.
Bengele said she has teachers who have expressed interest in getting E-sports up and running and have gone to universities who offer scholarships for donations of a PC. She also has a Vermilion Education Grant asking for some of this startup cost. She said there is a fall and spring season for E-sports. Deliz said specific teams play on certain nights of the week, for example, Fortnite would play on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Super Smash Bros. would play Monday, Wednesday. Board member Krystal Russell asked if the practices would be at the school. Bengele said there would be scrimmages between other schools, and practices would be at the school.
Board member Chris Habermehl asked about a team number, or a cap. Bengele said you may have six members on a Fortnite team, and six others may be better at Rocket League and form a team. She said it has become so competitive at some districts that they have a team of six and two alternates for a given game. Board member Eric Johnston asked if this is a sport they could letter in. Bengele said the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) is considering it. “I would not be surprised if by the end of the year it was not an approved sport where they can actually letter in.” Habermehl said even if it was not OHSAA-approved, Vermilion could do this locally. Bengele said it could. “It’s a shift of thinking,” said Bengele. “It’s exciting in that it’s another opportunity four our students. Colleges and universities are obviously recognizing it.”
Bengele said it’s just another way for students who are not interested in traditional extracurriculars to connect. Board President Sara Stepp asked if there were teachers interested in coaching this. Bengele said she had five people come forward who were interested, helped create a logo, and were recruiting students to be a part of this. “We have a number of them that are very excited about it.” If all goes well, Bengele said Vermilion could start participating in the spring season. She said the start up costs would be a supplemental for someone to coach, and the equipment costs such as the PCs, chairs, headphones, a mouse, etc.