Today is the first day of high school football practice in Rhode Island, but if you’re not into gridiron action, the students at Central High School in Providence have a new game to focus on – several actually.
Central is launching its first e-sports team this fall, where students will compete against other schools in League of Legends, Rocket League, Mario Cart Deluxe, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.
The games are required to be rated “E for Everyone” or “E-10,” which means that it’s appropriate for anyone ages 10 and up -- so no Mike Tyson’s Punch-out (which was clearly unbeatable without a cheat code anyway).
And e-sports definitely aren’t just a reason for teenagers to sit around eating potato chips. The students compete on teams as they play the video games, so they’re using critical thinking skills and learning to work together to accomplish goals. The Rhode Island Department of Education believes in e-sports so much that it gave Central a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) grant to help with initial costs.
”We are hoping that e-sports will be a way for more students, especially those who do not have another outlet, to get more involved in school activities,” coach Dan Lyttle, a math teacher, said. “Central has had a strong history when it comes to sports, and we want to keep that going and be number one in the state. As the program is still growing, I issue a challenge to other schools and districts to form their own teams and join this innovative wave.”
Lyttle isn’t kidding about Central’s athletic pedigree: Current Providence College basketball head coach Ed Cooley won two state championships playing for the Knights.
The competition in e-sports is pretty stiff. There were 20 teams that competed last season, including Classical High School in Providence.
As with many other sports in Rhode Island, Bishop Hendricken usually has one of the best League of Legends and Rocket League teams, although East Greenwich and Cranston West have come on strong in recent years, according to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s website.
Central reports that it already has 14 players interested for the fall season, which begins in late September. Teachers Jason Gomez, Megan Levy, and Alex Lee are also members of Lyttle’s coaching staff.
If all goes well, a spring season is planned.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.