SPASH esports team finds success in first year of competition

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- When you think of a gamer, you probably imagine someone alone in their room.

A student plays League of Legends (WSAW Photo).

But high school students are turning that image upside down. Esports teams are becoming more popular at Wisconsin high schools.

Students who get serious about it have a chance to get college scholarships and even high-paying jobs.

The SPASH esports team won the division playoffs Wednesday, advancing to the state tournament. They play Rocket League, which they described as soccer, but with flying cars, and League of Legends, a game of strategy.

They’re part of a generation making video games a live, collaborative experience, and it could score them some of the same opportunities as traditional athletes.

“I don’t think sports has to be inherently athletic… inherently ‘physically’ athletic,” said Touchue Vang, captain of the League of Legends team.

“It was cool to have people who are really good at the game like I am, and try to build up a team synergy with them,” said Nicholas Anderson, captain of the Rocket League team.

Esports have the same rivalries and lively fans as any other sport.

“You can root for teams, you can hate teams if you want,” said Vang.

Their coach, computer science teacher Kate Kaster, thinks the world of her students. She is expecting high stakes at the state tournament.

“There are going to be colleges and recruiters. That’s what I’m hoping for my boys… and my one girl,” said Kaster.

Even if it remains a hobby for some, she sees plenty of value in the time students devote to being on the team.

“No matter what job you have, whether you’re at Target or programming for NASA, you need critical thinking skills. You need to be able to anticipate, ‘What’s going to happen?’ ‘How do I do this?’” she said.

She says it’s making them better communicators, even if it still seems new to some parents.

“My mom watched one of the games live, and she liked that,” said Anderson.

“I don’t know how she’d feel if I would win some trophies or something, she’d be like, all you do is play games,” said Vang.

The state tournament will be held on March 21st. SPASH’s team says they are heavily favored to win.