Esports serving as catalyst for the future of high school athletes

Feb 6, 2024, 12:33 PM | Updated: 12:39 pm

OGDEN — High school athletes from across northern Utah participated Tuesday in the final regional event of the 2024 esports tournament.

Athletes wore jerseys, represented their schools and showed team spirit while competing, just like one would see at a football game. 

The main difference is these athletes are playing behind a screen.

“We were just sort of playing for fun, and we heard something about a school esports team,” said Charlie Johnson. 

Johnson, a senior at Viewmont High School, is one of dozens of high school athletes across northern Utah playing in the tournament at Weber State University. 

“Rocket League is a lot about making the right decisions, so you can be the most mechanical player,” Johnson said. “Like, you can be able to do all the cool tricks, but it’s not gonna matter if you’re not in the right spot at the right time,” said Johnson. 

High school athletes from across northern Utah participated Tuesday in the final regional event of the 2024 esports tournament. (Derek Petersen, KSL TV)

Johnson also enjoys mountain biking and playing baseball.

He said those sports — and this sport — share a lot of similarities.

“You gotta practice, right, too, so you know what you’re doing,” he said. 

Jason Scanlon, teacher and esports coach at Davis High School, said the athletes know what they are doing.

“Esports is the celebration of skill with competitive games – video games,” Scanlon said.  

Scanlon teaches things such as programming, 3D graphics, animation and game development. And he said a lot of students he teaches are students who have gone through the esports program.

“This is more than just kids playing their toys,” Scanlon said. “This is them representing themselves for the school and showing off there is a palpable excitement when they cheer for each other.” 

He said it can also serve as a catalyst for the future.

“In a way, this is our way to beckon them to a lot of the tech fields,” Scanlon said. “Not all of them do stay in it, but we do have a lot of students who are going into computer science, going into cybersecurity that kind of stuff.”

The next big event will happen in March at the Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah. At that event, the top players from Tuesday’s event will compete.

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Esports serving as catalyst for the future of high school athletes