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Nipmuc esports team offers unique opportunities for student growth

Students on the Nipmuc Regional High School esports team gain valuable skills including cooperation and strategic thinking. Courtesy photo

School program part of burgeoning competitive gaming field

By Linda Chuss
Esports is a relatively new field in which video game players compete online as teams or individuals against opponents located anywhere in the world. People not yet familiar with it may hold common misconceptions. Some might picture an isolated teenager playing nonstop at home. Others might envision cutthroat superstars battling in a stadium for impressive payouts. Those aspects are not representative of the Nipmuc Regional High School esports team, nor of most players.

 About the new gaming center, Nipmuc High esports team member Makary “Meko” Mansy said, “Now we have our own room with a complete setup”  Courtesy photo

“Esports provides an opportunity for students who are passionate about gaming to participate in a structured format,” said the Nipmuc team coach, Sam O’Neal, who is a staff member in the school’s technology department. “Our program started in 2021 after Athletic Director Chris Schmidt approached me about it. I’m a gamer and was on a team in college.”

“Our players are phenomenal, often surpassing me in ability. I help them navigate from an administrative and technology viewpoint. In January, we set up our esports center, a gaming environment for the team to practice and play matches in a single location. The students helped tremendously with that, from determining needs to installing equipment.”

Gaining computer-related expertise is one unique benefit for team members. O’Neal described other ways players develop. “Similar to what you find in traditional sports, there’s a lot of strategy, especially around getting a group to work together to succeed. Team captains provide leadership and facilitate player growth. And students have to communicate well with each other to win.

Nipmuc’s teams have been very successful, placing in the top five multiple times and winning a championship in Rocket League, one of four games they play, O’Neal related. He added, “Some students can even obtain esports college scholarships; we’ll be visiting Assumption College to learn about their program. After college, players may work in a related industry, or become doctors or anything while continuing to game with friends for fun or to de-stress.”

For anyone interested in the esports team:
•  Register for the fall or spring season through the athletic department.
•  Bi-weekly practices and weekly matches are held at the esports center, where all equipment is provided.
•  Each team member plays at least one game at every match.
 •  Spectators can watch matches, which are streamed on Twitch and YouTube Live.
•  Follow the team on social media under the name nipmucesports.
•  Discussions are underway to add a middle school program.

To better understand esports, O’Neal recommends the guide for parents at which is provided by PlayVS, the organization administering the high school league. One finding it cited is that nearly all players reported they “found a community they could connect with.” O’Neal provided his own summary: “Esports is a fun and engaging way for like-minded students to learn from each other.”