A sports team at Conifer High School doesn’t have uniforms or cheerleaders to cheer them on. The team doesn’t play on a court or field.
But it does play against other teams around the state, and after three years as a probationary sport, last year it was sanctioned by the Colorado High School Athletic Association.
It is Esports, and Conifer’s team has 13 participants who began their competitive season on Sept. 27. Esports is a team sport where members play video games against teams from other schools. Ninety-four teams competed last year, and Esports continues to grow in Colorado, the nation and internationally.
The Conifer team practices and competes in coach Drew Maseberg’s classroom, using two large monitors. As teams competed on Sept. 27 — one against STEM School Highlands Ranch and the other against Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins — Maseberg prepared PlayStation consoles for the next day’s competition.
While some might say Esports aren’t really sports, Maseberg disagrees. Team members are competitive and work together to beat other teams around the state. There are regional and state competitions just like traditional high school sports.
“These kids are playing video games anyway,” Maseberg said. “This is getting them to play together in person and socializing. Last year, we were playing all sorts of teams all over Colorado. It’s nice to not have to drive all those hours to get to competitions.”
Some Esports team members also play more traditional sports, but they enjoy gaming too, so the Esports team is a good fit. For other participants, Esports is the only team they can participate in because of physical challenges or the only team they want to participate on.
Sophomore Romey Haydon joined the team after tearing his ACL, so he can’t play football. He’s been a gamer since he was 6 years old.
“This is something great to do after school,” he said, adding that being on the Esports team is more individual competition compared with football.
Each team has three players, each of whom plays five games against a competing team member. Then the winners of the five-game competition play again. Esports is played both during the fall and spring semesters.
Junior Landon Hancock decided to join the Esports team after having a class with Maseberg. A lacrosse player, he called Esports a change of pace.
“It’s kind of fun and definitely different,” he said.
Junior Gaige Trujillo played football last year but decided to join Esports instead this year. He said the team gives him something to do after school where he can talk to other students with similar interests and have fun.
Sophomore Reece Gill is on the spring track team, and he decided to join Esports this fall. He said Esports was less physical but definitely competitive.
“It’s a really small team,” Gill said. “We get to be a super-tight-knit group.”