Central High School has started an esports program, with the team beginning preseason competition earlier this month and league play to come soon.
The Indians will compete in three popular video games: League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. and Rocket League.
Competitions for the esports program are powered through PlayVS, which is expected to be used by the Missouri State High School Activities Association to enable varsity competition next year.
Dave Lau, athletic director for Central High School, said talks about an esports program revved up last year, but the idea was put on hold after the school was forced to halt activities and move students to virtual learning. Now that the idea has come to fruition, Lau believes it’s another way to get students involved in activities.
“It’s an opportunity to have so many other kids get involved in an activity here,” Lau said. “Right now, it’s like a club. Once MSHSAA gets it going, we’ll have it ready to go; we’ll have it already established.”
Jacob Olson will serve as the head coach of the esports program for Central. Olson brought the idea of establishing the program to Lau last year and said it would be a benefit to students who may want to pursue a scholarship as esports athletes.
“I’ve been following the pro scene of all these games. Last year was my first year teaching, and I said, ‘We need an esports team,’” Olson said. “I just want more kids involved. I want kids in the community to continue to grow.”
Olson said the program works alongside Missouri Western State University to share equipment and has entertained the possibility of hosting tournaments for high school students at the university in the future.
Missouri Western State University announced the addition of an esports program in December of 2019. The school elevated former football player and graduate intern Luke Theis to an interim leadership role with its esports program last week.