No game, no life: New Trier’s e-Sports program begins

Students compete in video games against local schools



Five students play League of Legends on gaming computers at the club

After gaining approval to start the program in late May of last year, e-Sports held its initial meeting to kick-off its first competitive season on Sep. 13.

Faculty sponsor Ryan Dunn says the program was able to start due to students wanting to compete with neighboring schools through e-Sports.

“The catalyst this year is that there are now enough schools in our region that do have e-Sports teams and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is sponsoring e-Sports as an official event.”

Student Activities Coordinator Stacy Kolack sits on the IHSA Activities Director Advisory Committee, and helped research and enroll the program with the IHSA.

“I reached out to local schools with comparable programs and asked about how they hold their club meetings and equipment,” she said.

The club currently has two League of Legends teams and three Rocket League teams. Other games, specifically first-person shooter (FPS) games like Valorant and Overwatch, have been postponed due to social stigma around gun violence in gaming. 

Junior Andriana Geroulis originally hoped to play Valorant or Rainbow Six Siege in the club, but decided to play in a League of Legends team when she learned that FPS games were unavailable.

“When we found out we couldn’t play FPS games, we decided to stay and still support the team by joining and picking one of the two games that were of option.”

There may be a possibility that first-person shooter games are added later to the program. 

“We’re constantly educating ourselves and learning more about video game content.” Kolack said. “Working with a student population, we want to make the best decisions for a school environment.”

Senior Kush Arora plays on a Rocket League team. He says competing as a team has proved a tricky and unfamiliar shift from playing individually, and has contributed to his team’s 0-4 season record.

“Our biggest issue in our Rocket League team is communication,” he said. “We’re all working really well mechanically, so once we get that sorted out, then we’ll be unstoppable.”

Dunn observes a similar fallback among all the teams.

“Playing as a coordinated group of three or five people that are working together and complimenting each other has been the biggest learning experience for the kids.”

Another obstacle is the time commitment the e-Sports program requires; around five to six hours a week, Dunn estimates, broken down into a weekly game, a club feedback session with the coaches, and scrimmaging or practicing. Therefore, students with multiple different commitments can struggle to fully participate in the program.

Dunn said, “It’s not just a ‘Come play video games’ club, we are putting this forward as an official team in an official competitive environment.”

Like any normal sport, students in the e-Sports program will have the opportunity to compete for scholarships and a championship through both the High School E-Sports League, via Generation Esports, and the new IHSA-sponsored e-Sports competitive series.

The motivation to qualify for playoffs, held in Texas, and potentially compete for a championship title is what drives Senior Brian Ko, an AD Carry in a League of Legends team, to perform well.

“We scream before some of the games, ‘We’re going to Texas!’ to boost spirits.”

e-Sports will have both a fall and winter season, with the ongoing fall season ending mid-December, and the winter season beginning early January. Both seasons have separate playoffs and championships, and the coaches will register new teams at the beginning of each season.

Another social stigma that competitive gaming faces is a culture of toxicity. However, to reinforce a positive environment for all players, the e-Sports coaches have implemented a zero-tolerance policy.

“We’re very strict on any kind of misogynistic or racist language used in chat or used in-game,” said Dunn. “If any report gets back to us that a kid has used any of that language, they are immediately removed from the club.”

As one of the only female-identifying members of the club, Geroulis hasn’t been bothered by the gender imbalance.

“I expected an experience where I would be more shut off by my teammates due to my gender, but surprisingly, the whole club itself has been a very welcoming environment. I’ve been able to form great relationships with my teammates and the coaches are really welcoming,” she said. “I just hope more girls can start joining.”

What connects all the players is their great passion for gaming.

“We have no life, so we just constantly grind games,” said Arora.