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Inaugural Dawson County esports season creates team spirit from the classroom
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Dawson County High School has started it's inaugural season for esports. Even though the new team is constantly looking for areas to improve, they're riding a wave of early victories. - photo by Jacob Smith

“I don’t know what happened other than that he just summoned a fire goat and destroyed everything.”

Not words often heard during the practice of a high school sports team, but recently a new high school "athlete" prototype has emerged at Dawson County High School.

The Dawson County Tigers eSports Team began their inaugural season this year with four victories in a row. Currently, the school's two esports teams play two video games: League of Legends and Rocket League.

The team, led by Head Coach Jonathan Tinsley, plays in a classroom dedicated for the esports team to play in, filled with over 30 Apple Mac desktops.  

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Dawson County High School students on the Tigers Esports Team focus on a League of Legends match on Tuesday, March 3. - photo by Jacob Smith

The Tigers this year joined 90 other Georgia high school teams competing in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) eSports League, which is run and funded by the company PlayVS.

“The nice thing about this that you don’t get from other sports is that there’s no rainouts or no traveling,” Tinsley said. “As long as the internet connection is good, we’re playing.”

Principal Brody Hughes was at the League of Legends match on Tuesday, March 3, and commented that the creation of the team at the high school started more as a joke than something serious, at least at first. But now, he couldn't be happier that the team is up and running on all cylinders. 

“For the most part, these guys haven’t shown any interest in joining a different sport that the high school offers,” Hughes said. “It’s awesome to watch them come together and play as a team.”

The five eSports athletes that make up the Tiger's League of Legends team have a hard time identifying with some of the other athletes at their school, but believe they should be considered a high school athlete.

“It should definitely be categorized as a sport, just not a physical sport.” League of Legends player Andrew Hyder said before his match on Tuesday. “It’s not physically demanding but it is mentally demanding.”

Often, the team is forced to change its strategy in the middle of the match. After losing the first of a best-of-three series against the Forsyth Central High School on Tuesday, team captain Tristan Flynn told his teammates to switch to a more defensive gameplay.

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- photo by Jacob Smith

Coach Tinsley and Hughes plan to solidify the eSports team as one of the main sports at the High School. Along with trying to attract local sponsors for the team, they want to provide the team with headsets to communicate with each other while playing, add computer keyboard cleaners, and even purchase jerseys for the team to wear while they are playing.

However, the team agreed that the most important purchase the school could make is actual gaming PC’s for the team to use.

Mac is currently in the process of dropping software support for Rocket League, and Hyder said he thinks League of Legends will be the next game that Mac drops.

“More of my friends would play if the computers were better,” Hyder said. “They don’t want to waste their time on slower gameplay and I don’t blame them.”

More than 30 students filled out the official interest letter to join the eSports team, Tinsley said, but only eight showed up to the first meeting and joined the team.

With the season beginning with four wins in a row, coach Tinsley said he thinks that as long as the success continues and the team gets all new gear, the eSports team will continue to grow at the high school. 

But according to the players, the team environment makes everything worth it.

“I think what a lot of people get wrong is ‘Oh, it’s just a video game, why show up to practice?’” Hyder said. “But coming together and getting to practice make us all better as a team, just like any other sport at the school.”