For Scribner-Snyder's inaugural eSports team, it's Game On!

For Scribner-Snyder's inaugural eSports team, it's Game On!

By Tyler Dahlgren

Like any kid who grew up in the 90s will tell you, there aren’t many ways to better spend a night than cruising along the sandy shores of Koopa Troopa Beach or ripping down the intergalactic highway better known as Rainbow Road.

Huddled around a console (which, back in my gaming prime, was the Nintendo 64), powered by Mountain Dew and Cool Ranch Doritos, those late-night Mario Kart marathons were serious matters to my friends and I.

Twenty years later, they’re just good memories. Except for Bowser’s Castle. I have no fond memories of Bowser’s Castle and never wish to return.

So it’s fitting that the story of Scribner-Snyder’s eSports team got its start on a game night last winter. Mario Kart, an all-time classic, eventually gave way to Fortnite, a battle royale game for up to 100 players that swept the video-game universe in 2017.

Video games can catch a bad rap from time to time, but Linda Schafer, the adult sponsor overseeing that particular game night, observed a group of kids interacting with each other in ways she’d never seen before and started to hatch an idea.

“I saw more good things in their gaming than I was seeing bad things,” said the K-12 coding, keyboarding and programming teacher. “I kept watching and listening in on the conversations they were having and the collaboration that was taking place.”

Then, when glancing over a technology integration site, Schafer came across a post from Louisville Public Schools, who was searching for teams to compete against in eSports.

“I did a ton of research, and kept thinking back to the problem-solving, collaboration and communication I saw from the kids,” Schafer said. “I knew there was something to this, so I went to the principal and said ‘I’d like to start an eSports team.’”

There’s something you need to know about Scribner-Snyder.

Even before it became the smallest district in the state to offer eSports, the place prioritizes opportunities. The administration team and school board think ahead. They know they’re preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

“I have been here for eight years,” said Deron Meyer, activities director and network systems administrator for the district. “Anything dealing with technology, the school board here has been very receptive to having us out there in front as far as we can be.”

Schafer teaches computer science to students from the time they’re five until they’re seniors in high school. Scribner-Snyder offers beginning, intermediate and capstone coding classes, and every high school freshman takes a coding course.

She has  29 elementary students in her Code Club. The district has operated on one-to-one computing for the last eight years. She’s used to being supported.

“My principal said ‘Go for it!’” Schafer said.

Corben Burger is a senior, and Schafer calls him one of the more social kids on the inaugural Scribner-Snyder eSports team.

“There are kids on the team that, on a day-to-day basis, you don’t see socializing with other people much,” Schafer explains. “So the interaction is a big plus.”

Burger grew up playing video games. He remembers the Playstation 2 (man, I feel old) and Halo 3 battles with his two brothers. He credits them for his competitive gaming streak.

Burger had given some thought in passing to playing eSports. Down the highway in Fremont, Midland University offers a team. One of the gamers from Midland actually volunteered to speak with the team and work on strategies, too.

But being one of two seniors on his high school’s first ever eSports team?

“It’s been kind of chaotic, at times, but overall this has been a really good experience,” Burger said.

His favorite game is Counterstrike, which he plays at home on a computer he bought with money saved through work.

“I play StarCraft II a lot, too, and that really helps me to improve on my micro and macro management skills,” Burger added.

Schafer is at the school for optional practice sessions on Tuesday nights from 7-9 through the first semester. The second half of the school year, the team will ramp up practices to two or three times a week.

Through the first semester, the team is competing on free computer games, including Overwatch and StarCraft II. They’ve held fundraisers for team shirts that they’ve designed, and the school recently purchased new gaming headsets for the kids.

Scribner-Snyder is all in on its newest avenue for student opportunity. Meyer, who coaches on the Logan View/Scribner-Snyder football staff, views eSports like any other sport.

“The mindset itself is an athletic mindset, like going out for football or basketball, and this is being treated just like any other sports team,” Meyer said. "A couple of our players have came up and said 'You have coding club? That's so cool.'"

When Schafer got the go-ahead, she sat down and wrote a six-page document containing a code of conduct and expectations. She interviewed the school’s athletic coaches and framed it from what she took away from those conversations. The document will serve as the base for something she sees expanding greatly in the future.

“I am trying to build this up,” Schafer said. “This is a perfect fit for our kids. I want it to grow. That’s the game plan. I want it to be something the kids can look forward to.”

Schafer, admittedly, is not a gamer. Far from it, actually, but when she saw the excitement her idea brought to students who weren’t overly involved in other school-sanctioned activities, there wasn’t any turning back.

She attended TeacherCon, a conference held by, for a week of training in computer science, and continued to research and expand her knowledge on eSports.

“That was a really awesome experience,” she said.

Next semester, Burger and his teammates will compete in console games against teams throughout the state. Their AD will be in their corner, cheering them on.

“Other AD’s kind of look at me sideways,” Meyer said. “I just tell them, ‘Hey, this is something that is coming.’ You have Midland and Bellevue and many other schools offering scholarships. eSports is coming, and at Scribner-Snyder, we are willing to look at any avenues that might provide our kids additional opportunities.”

It’s like Schafer told her team at one of their first gatherings.

“If you get really good at this, it could turn into another opportunity for a scholarship,” she said. “For them to have this chance, and to see them so excited about it, that’s amazing to me.”

Scribner-Snyder’s eSports team is connected, fully charged and ready to go.

Game on.