Paducah Tilghman to add eSports team

Members of the Marshall County High School eSports team are shown practicing “League of Legends” last year in the school’s specialized computer room. Paducah Tilghman High School will join their ranks among Kentucky high school eSports teams.

The Paducah Independent School District Board on Monday approved a stipend for a coach for an eSports team at Paducah Tilghman High School.

The $2,000 stipend would go toward a coach of a new sport approved by the high school’s Site-Based Decision-Making Council (SBDMC) on June 24 — eSports is the 21st sport that PTHS sponsors.

PTHS Principal Alliston Stieg and Athletics Director Deatrik Kinney were both excited about adding a sport and an opportunity for students to take advantage of.

Kinney said registration for the PTHS eSports team will be in September. The season opens on Oct. 4 — eSports has a fall and spring season.

“I think it’s a niche for kids that may not be involved in other things at Tilghman,” Stieg said. ”I think it’s exciting for them to have this opportunity.”

Kinney said eSports is a fast-growing phenomenon across Kentucky.

“I think, a lot of times, that a lot of these kids who are very knowledgeable at computers and play a lot of these eSports games were left out from being able to participate and being counted as a sport,” he said. “Now, they get to be included in all of those things, and it’s going to be labeled a sport.

“They’ll get to compete against other schools and get to showcase their talent in a different way.”

The competitions are held online, so there are no travel costs.

Stieg said the idea of PTHS having an eSports team came from the student body, who brought the idea to the school’s Site-Based Decision-Making Council.

“The bottom line is that this is just another opportunity for our kids to be a part of something,” she said. “Not only that, but they can get scholarships to attend college. I’m really excited about it.”

Three schools in the state’s First Region in western Kentucky currently have eSports teams: Calloway County, Graves County and Marshall County high schools.

McCracken County High School had an eSports team but dropped it a few years ago. MCHS Principal Matthew Houser said bringing the team back would be discussed at the school’s next SBDMC meeting.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association contracted with PlayVS of California to sanction eSports. According to khsaa.org, 97 schools in Kentucky have eSports teams.

“They basically handle all of the scheduling for the teams,” said KHSAA Communications Director Joe Angolia. “The teams sign up through their platform. They set the games, they conduct the matches and keep track of the standings. From there, you advance to the playoffs, and the playoffs play out like a traditional state championship.”

The competitions involve play in video games, including League of Legends, Rocket League and Smite. Teammates work together using skill and strategy to accomplish a goal.

“A big part of it is the communication that has to take place,” Angolia said. “Most of the time, they’re big on strategy, so you’re working with your teammates to formulate a strategy and a plan of attack to counter what your opponents are doing as well as advancing your own goals.”

Games are played in a “best-of” format, like a best-of-three, best-of-five or best-of-seven.

Angolia said the KHSAA is working to be sanctioned in other games as well, but at least 25 schools must sign up for a game before it is sanctioned.

The KHSAA has held eSports championships since 2019. The champions each year have been from Louisville and Louisville-area schools, although Graves County was the Spring 2019 runner-up in Rocket League.

More information about eSports in Kentucky schools can be found at khsaa.org and typing “esports” in the search window.

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