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Sebring students gear up for esports spring season

In its inaugural season, the district’s Fortnite team advanced to the playoffs, winning the Club Level Championship.

SEBRING —  A group of students playing video games might seem like friendly competition, but at Sebring McKinley High School, it’s a team sport.

Esports is competitive, organized video gaming. Teams or individuals compete against others in a number of popular strategy games.

The 12 students on the Sebring team during its inaugural season compiled a 5-1 season for Fortnite and Rocket League.

The district’s Fortnite team advanced to the playoffs, winning the Club Level Championship.

The school’s esports team has many of the same requirements for students as other sports. Students must meet the same minimum GPA restrictions and go through tryouts for each season. Students who earn a place on the roster compete either on the school’s Fortnite team or Rocket League team.

Students commit to a season of two pre-competition scrimmage weeks, 10 regular season games and a 64-team bracket for playoffs into a championship game.

Prior to each game, the students have a two-hour practice day and are encouraged to practice their respective games with their teammates outside of the official practice time.

“In terms of the games, there is plenty of hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition, teamwork, communication and situation assessment,” Brad Kirkland, Sebring esports coach, said in a news release. “But a great soft skill I noticed in the students was their communication with other schools for their matches.

"Each game day, the captains at each school exchange names, chat, and set up their matches to be played for the day," said Kirkland, a junior high science teacher. "This is a great soft skill and an ability to network.”

Sebring’s esports team will be conducting its spring tryouts in mid-February. Tryouts consist of students playing small tournaments against each other.

Up to 12 students can represent the district for each game, with three or six competing during a given match. Tryouts will establish how students rank on the team and who starts against other teams.

Esports Ohio, a league with more than 100 member districts in Ohio, provides resources and support to schools to participate in these competitions. More than 15 Ohio colleges and universities have esports teams.