Esports at Ames High
Ames High’s newest sport and club isn’t a contact sport, but, electronically it is. The esports club meets with sponsor Patrick Donovan to get practice playing games such as Overwatch 2 and Rocket League. Popularity of esports is growing state-wide.
“We just started this season,” Donovan said. “Ames High has had a gaming club in the past but esports is growing in Iowa. There’s 86 schools that are part of the Iowa High School Esports Association (IAHSEA).”
The popularity of esports is seen at high schools around Story County. In addition to Ames, Gilbert, Roland-Story, and Nevada each have teams.
“Some bigger schools like Linn-Mar, Iowa City West, Davenport Central, and some metro schools like Urbandale have programs,” Donovan said.
Ames has seven opponents scheduled on their varsity calendar, Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, Dallas Center-Grimes, Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson, Harlan, Urbandale, Des Moines Lincoln, and Greene County. After those seven matchups, there is also a postseason with playoffs and a championship.
“It’s online matches for the regular season, but in person for the championship,” he said. “The top eight teams face off in person.”
The IAHSEA has three seasons in a school year with specific multiplayer video games in each. The fall state championship was held on November 18, 2022, at the RecPlex in West Des Moines. Each season focuses on different games. According to Donovan, the fall is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and League of Legends. Wintertime is Overwatch 2 and Rocket League, and spring is Mario Kart team and SMITE.
“My favorite game is Smash,” he adds. “That’s because it’s more fun to watch and gives a lot of different people opportunities to play.”
Donovan started as the coach in Nevada two years ago.
“I volunteered the first year because they knew just how important it could be for students to get involved who otherwise might not have an involvement outside of classes,” he said. “We played all six seasons I was there. This last spring, we did get the championship for Mario Kart and we raised that banner last month in the gym.”
Playing esports can lead to getting scholarships for college. According to Donovan, for both players and content creators, most of the two-year schools and four-year schools in Iowa have scholarships.
“I have two former players that are on scholarships at a university,” he said. “Esports is not just about playing video games in school, there are a lot of career paths that come out of it.”
There are many benefits to being part of esports at AHS, including finding connectedness within the camaraderie as computer competitors. The group is even trying to get jerseys so they represent they are part of a team.
“We know a lot of students play video games outside of school, so bringing it in school, not only are you getting to play with others, you get that experience of connecting with other people. You are learning teamwork,” Donovan said. “I have seen students do esports that have not done anything else before, I’ve had former players tell me the reason they’re going to class and passing everything is because they’re part of a team and they don’t want to let anyone down.”