PIERRE — A pilot season for e-sports in South Dakota is helping high schools work out the technical kinks as well as building a foundation of mentors for the future.
The South Dakota High School Activities board of directors last week heard that during an update on the first-ever season for e-sports, short for electronic sports, from Kaleb Dschaak, CEO of Fenworks. The company was chosen to assist the state’s school activities oversight panel explore the implementation of e-sports programming, which includes virtual competitions in Chess, League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers. Drone racing is also offered by Fenworks.
20 e-sports teams feature 217 students
Dschaak told the board there are 20 schools participating in the e-sports pilot season with 217 students competing in online games.
“We’ve really had a good launch to the season,” Dschaak said.
There were originally 24 schools in the pilot season, he said, but technical problems at four schools forced them to drop out of the pilot program. He hopes to have those problems worked out by the next school year when e-sports starts its first official season.
The 20 teams participating all have coaches, known in e-sports as general managers.
“We have a foundation of mentors,” Dschaak said, explaining those 20 general managers will be there to help when more teams are added next season.
Participating in the pilot are Tea Area School, Woonsocket High School, Warner High School, Todd County High School, Rapid City Central High School, Platte-Geddes High School, Northwestern High School, Lakota Tech High School, Hot Spring High School, Douglas, Dakota Valley High School, Canistota High School, Beresford High School, Aberdeen Central High School, Mobridge-Pollock High School, Sioux Falls CTE Academy, Baltic High School, Leola High School, Deuel High School, Flandreau High School, Madison High School, and Lower Brule High School.
Central e-sports team has about 20 members
The Central team, which has about 20 members, practices and competes from a new space in the ATEC Academy on the high school campus.
The e-sports stations are equipped with under-the-desk ellipticals and ergonomic chairs, and there are upright stationary bikes to encourage student activity between matches.
The pilot season will end with a tournament hosted by South Dakota State University in Brookings. Since it won’t be sanctioned by SDHSAA, Dschaak is calling it a “community” tournament rather than a state tournament.
Scott Waltman of The Aberdeen Insider and Joe Sneve of The Dakota Scout contributed to this report.