E-Sports and Technology Departments with E-Sports Coaches Isaiah and Ranger

  • Zack:

Hello. You’re listening to the K-12 tech podcast to bring you insights into the world of education technology. Stay tuned. As we discuss the past, the present and, most importantly, the future of technology in our schools. Hello and thank you, everybody, for joining the K-12 tech podcast today. I am joined with Jeff Botteron and two E-Sports coaches from Concord Community Schools and introduce yourself really quick.


  • Isaiah:

Sure. My name is Isaiah Grathen. I’ve been working at Concord for approaching two years now as a district wide tech.


  • Ranger:

And I am Ranger. I am also a district wide tech and I’ve been here for about two and a half years, close to three.


  • Zack:

So awesome and thank you. And then the topic today is E-Sports and number one, how the technology department can be a part, a partner in getting that started. Tech director side down, but also from a coaching standpoint now, Isaiah. Did you guys start this program like together or was it already existing but not really like managed or how did it start?


  • Isaiah:

There were across the districts, mostly in the junior high and the high school. Their individual, like E-Sports clubs that would come together there wasn’t really labeled as e-sports. It was more of a specific game. So, for example, there were like Super Smash Bro Clubs, but in terms of a generalized E-Sports, that didn’t happen until Brian and I kind of took that mantle and started creating something. I mean, we I’d say we pretty much created it from scratch. There was a little bit of help from different areas, but there wasn’t really anything before we started doing an actual e-sports club.


  • Zack:

You know, this whole topic interests me mainly because when it comes to when it comes to video games, I’m like the least, I like my newest gaming system I have for me and my kids is an N64, not to brag but I’m a pretty killer 64 smash players.


  • Isaiah:

I bet you are, I bet you are.


  • Zack:

You are not. But what I really want to find out is, is this really seems like a topic I hear from tech directors consistently in the last probably three or four years. And I just kind of want to get into you.

You guys started it. What were kind of the hard aspects to get it going? Is there funding from the school or do you do fundraisers and really kind of just to find the difference between like a normal like your traditional sport that’s in a school and then your E-Sports club or sports?


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, I would. I first start off by saying at least that Concord, we’ve been very. Grateful, we’ve been pretty generous in terms of how much we’ve received to start up the program. I’ve heard a lot of stories in like going to heck talking to others about sports.

A lot of them just start from doing nothing. They start making their own funds through fundraisers and they have like zero school support here, Concord. We’ve had some school support and support from the technology department itself. So where we started it, we had this construction called the Move Up Academy and it was like this.

It was meant to be almost like an electric cafe, I guess you could say. But there were rooms within that construction that were specifically made for like higher end development for like VR educational purposes. It’s been here for about four years.

Yeah, within the first year and a half, we say that it wasn’t like the first like three years that one room for advanced computers I had, like some, Alienware is in there, so they’re really souped up computers. It really wasn’t utilized as much, I think, as a lot of the staff thought it would be.

So that’s where we saw unused space, and that’s where a lot of other schools as well. They usually try to tie in their equipment with other courses, like if they have heavy like AutoCAD courses or rooms with computers are using higher end specs.

Softwares usually ask where you can kind of tie and say, Hey, can we also use these computers for this purpose as well? E-sports was going to go hand in hand. That’s kind of what we did as well in the grand scheme.

There was a room that was used for higher performance softwares for educational purposes, and we said, you know, we could totally use these for e-sports as well. So we started there. It was a very small. It was like six computers with six monitors in really, really weird, awkward desks.

It was great. And then from there, we’ve we received some funding through the technology department to kind of expedite the process because I think our tech director saw last year we were in regards to the e-sports and he provided some funding. So we were able to get six additional computers, like new desks like actual gaming, comfortable desks, chairs and whatnot. And. I think that touches the basis of the question. I think we jumped around a bit, but yeah.


  • Zack:

And Jeff, I’ve got a question for you coming from the tech director side. I mean, is it better to kind of bundle this with like what they were talking about, like with the cat having high powered computers that have multiple purposes for funding? Or what have you kind of seen on your end in education?


  • Jeff:

Well, I think I think it depends on the size of the school, not all schools are going to have those kind of specialty rooms that that are being discussed. So I think I think it’s going to be very much contingent upon what’s the unique design of the school.

What’s the catch points? But from a tech director perspective, I love every aspect of this right? You’re talking about getting kids in with high powered computers and having them interact with technology and meaningful ways. That’s going to spur on a lot of good things that are going on within your system from a tech standpoint.

I’m sitting here thinking, Wow, like, I wish I would have thought of that and could bring that in, because pulling kids into pulling kids into technology services in general within schools is just so critical. And this seems like a natural point for tech directors to take on and take advantage of the fact that that would be identifying

the more techie, the more game focused kids that are paying attention to computers, their specs, how they were putting them together to be able to help out. So this this just kind of is sparking some excitement, obviously in my voice, but also it’s getting the wheels turning on.

How do you bring that in? I think it’s going to vary from location to location, but having a tech director get their hands dirty with this seems to make a lot of sense.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And so just just looking through like a process standpoint, like step one, step two, you know, not getting the cart before the horse is the first thing, getting the students together and then seeing how many people are actually interested? Or is it first starting the program and having all the tools ready to bring in the students? I’m just kind of curious, like, do you start by going to the school announcements, say, Hey, anybody who loves playing video games, you know this? Or how are you getting the word out to the school? Or would you say, starting the program first and then recruiting is kind of the sequence of events to get started there.


  • Ranger:

So honestly, we already had a few students that heard of our club, so they kind of were the original kids that showed up. And yeah, they showed up every day just wanting to play games because maybe they don’t have games at home. We have those pieces. But then once we saw the once we actually built the the gaming room with all the pieces we got, we made a Google form and then sent it to all the high school students and seen what kind of.


  • Isaiah:

Interest.


  • Ranger:

And interest we had all over the school. And that’s where more kids were able to join.


  • Isaiah:

So yeah, I think it’s important to say that we spent our first year. We we now have the distinction between competitive e-sports and e-sports club. Our first year was just the sports club, so it’s like an open come in and play.

We have these titles we support, you know, grab a group of friends. And that first year really helped build steam for the program so that this year that we’re playing it now when we’re actually competing in an organization.

We actually had to do like tryouts and stuff because we had more equipment at that time, which was great. But also we had that first year of just building the programs like reputation, getting the word out. And now on top of that, we were our school, our high school days like a morning announcements.

So we had like advertisement in there. Hey, are you good at any of these four titles? Do you have friends that you want to start playing in these titles for the first time? We’re kind of. We sat at some lunch booth things that they do every now and then, so a little bit of advertisement on our end. And it was all kind of gradual. I think as we got more students in the program, we obviously needed more capacity in terms of hardware as we continue to grow.


  • Zack:

That’s a really good point. And that was one question I was going to have is OK, year one. How many kids do you think you had your one just in the club? Kind of learning like playing the game is not as serious as you were. You’re telling me you’re one.


  • Isaiah:

We’d like to have about ten reoccurring students.


  • Zack:

And then you’re to kind of you’re actually doing competitive. You say you’re having tryouts. How many kids do you think you are actually trying out? And then how many did you end up keeping like an order?


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, we have like over 60 students try out and then we have two teams of Valorant. So that’s ten Student Apex as well. So we have roughly a little close to 40 after tryouts. Yeah.


  • Zack:

OK. So, so inside of you sports that makes 100% sense. It’s like four different sport. Yeah.


  • Isaiah:

That’s where that’s different from. Like other sports, you have four different sports titles. You have support.


  • Zack:

Now. Do you have any kids that play multiples like they’re good at like multiple games or is it like you pick one and that’s your game?


  • Isaiah:

That’s kind of how we’ve done this year there. Besides a few students where certain titles like Rocket League, we only have like one team, we don’t have a lot of tryouts. So we do have. one student from our Valorant team that sub’s in if he needs to, but typically we try to make them focus on one game


  • Ranger:

We really want them to focus on their game and just practice that day in, day out and not focus on multiple games. Yeah.


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s incredible. So, 60 people, that’s like as much as like a basketball team tryouts.


  • Isaiah:

It was crazy. We had to spend two weeks of tryouts just because we have four titles you have to go against. They’re all different in their own ways, like inspect every player, every student in their own way when they’re playing that game. It’s it was a busy process was fun.


  • Zack:

That’s why so many sports I’m assuming that there are K-12 or high school leagues, right? So there’s probably an association and anything that’s like new in technology. It seems like there’s a ton that come out and there’s only a few that really make it to the top and hour and have a lot of the market share. What would you say is like the number one for, you know, public school high schools to start any sports league? Like what’s the EA team? What’s like the number one league that you guys use and the Concord?


  • Isaiah:

Yeah. So if you are in Indiana, we play with ICE in Indiana high school sports network. They’re a great option. And this is our first year playing. They’re great in terms of financially because they’re completely free to join. All you need is the hardware yourself to perform locally. And then there are other orgs. The biggest one is HCR High School Sports League, and they’re national, if I am correct. There’s also others like play versus which are, I think, are national as well. But the ACL and play versus both require funding. So it’s like, I don’t want to say a wrong number, but I remember, like 49, a student for a season or something along that lines. But we won with icing because it was first year it was free and they had some good titles they were supporting.


  • Ranger:

So yeah, and we play locally against schools locally. Yes.


  • Zack:

Yeah. So there’s so much stuff there to unpack because it’s like so interesting. So that’s one thing that’s not a constraint with E-Sports is you could tech, you could play schools all over the United States, which is not like any other sport we have currently.

It’s all it’s all yet have to be physically in the same spot. So that’s interesting in and of itself. But it does kind of lose that. It does kind of lose that rivalry that a lot of people have with your local schools. So Concord versus school city in Mishawaka or Penn or these other schools. So how many schools around you guys in Concord are doing E-Sports? Is there quite a few or not that many?


  • Isaiah:

So there was our closest one was Elkhart there, a sports coach has moved on from to a different job, so we haven’t heard from them this season other than actual like high schools. Not a ton around us.


  • Ranger:

Much less like.


  • Isaiah:

Every college around us, though, is has one Goshen vessel, you name it Purdue.


  • Ranger:

Yeah, more more of the high schools that have sports are like in Indianapolis and around that area like Carmel and bigger schools like that scored.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah.


  • Zack:

Yeah. OK, Portage is kind of close to you guys.


  • Isaiah:

That’s probably our closer one.


  • Zack:

Hour and a half. So in this platform, like how do you set up? I’m not very familiar with video games. I’m going to say something so correctly so the Indiana Association for E-sports or whatever. Is there some sort of do they have a platform that you meet at each school meets that, that there’s some sort of regulation or you actually like setting up like something inside of the game so that you’re playing against each other, right? Like how does that work? Setting up a message and all of that.


  • Isaiah:

So each game, each title has their own set of rules. Each titles differ in terms of how you play the game. So there is a like a standard and a guideline of the rules you have to have in place.

So I can give you an example for a game valorant that we play, we play one specific map. There are specific like settings. You have the checkmark that you go through when you start a match. And then there are certain settings like you can’t have any blood like that on. So it’s turn off blood and stuff like that. And that’s there’s a guideline or rules for every single title you play that are pretty much a standard across anyone who’s playing in that organization.


  • Ranger:

And that’s set up by Eisen. So those regulations are Eisen’s regulations. Other leagues might have different regulations and.


  • Zack:

Yeah, see that that’s interesting, I’m thinking of games like Call of Duty or ones that might have more blood or be more gory, like are those games that can be played in schools or is that typically frowned upon when it comes to like association Jeff? That might be a good topic for you to talk about as well.


  • Ranger:

Yeah, I’ve seen schools play Call of Duty and like Cisco Counter-Strike Offensive, so it really just varies on the school and how the school board feels about it like it just really depends.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, I think Geoff can add more to that. I think that currently in e-sports is kind of like the icy slope as like how what kind of maturity in games can we provide really? For us, it comes back to what our like local colleges around here playing. If they’re supporting titles like Call of Duty CSGO, it would be at a disadvantage if we didn’t kind of offer those.


  • Jeff:

And I think pulling the colleges the end of the conversation is going to be certainly part of entryway into conversations with your board, you’ve got to understand what is what is the higher ED landscape look like, what are good entry points to that, as described by the college?

And you know, obviously it’s an important component of it to also say, you know what, what are the advantages of getting kids enrolled? And I think with colleges adopting this, I mean, I’m did a quick Google search as we started this conversation, and I’m seeing scholarships on scholarship amounts ranging from, you know, a few thousand dollars a year to full ride scholarships, $25,000 plus from university, saying, Hey, want to come here and play you sport? So it is an emerging market. I would tend to think that if I was pitching this to my school board, I would start with one of the games that are going to be a pretty good distance away from that slippery slope that we just spoke about, right? I want to start with something that’s pretty, pretty pretty pretty vanilla, but one that can maybe get kids enrolled and excited about maybe going to one of these, you know, like community opens that are run by the E-Sports Association in Indiana to start helping them get that flavor of what is this? What is this environment look like? Who are the other kids that are involved? How many schools in Indiana are taking part? Have your kids participating participated in any of those opens?


  • Ranger:

Yeah. So we’ve already been in a couple. This past weekend, I went with some of our super smash Bros. Teams players, and they competed in the Manchester University smash tournament and the top eight players that place get a scholarship to that school. So that was very fun, and our kids really did well. So that’s that’s one of them.


  • Isaiah:

Luckily, we have good teams. If you were in South Bend of the Bendix Arena, which is like this new sports arena, it’s really local to us. It’s in South Bend and a lot of the times like ICE and will host events there. So if we go to an in-person LAN event, it’s typically at that nice new Bendix Arena. Yeah.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I think Jeff brought up a good point. The colleges are giving scholarships now. I remember talking with the tech director at Penn and they were talking about like millions and millions of dollars being given out. This is back in 2000 and maybe 18. There was like something like 30 or $40 million that you’re being given out in scholarships for e-sports. Mm hmm. And this is becoming like a change, especially with like kind of a lot of more, just with the physical impact of like football and some other sports kind of lose losing a little bit of their a little bit of their gas kind of in the in the public school arena, I can see a lot of people shifting to this. I mean, especially with COVID to everyone’s stuck inside. I mean, think about like Illinois, they almost I think they didn’t have sports for a year and a half around the Chicagoland area.

So all these kids are competitive, they have these competitive, they have this competitive nature. They got no outlet other than, you know, really sports, you know, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the shifts like this. Like, I honestly kind of predict like E-Sports and public schools could be could be the biggest sport like overall in the next ten years. I mean, I could be completely wrong. People love their football, but I mean, just it seems like that’s the way, that’s the way the culture is going.


  • Jeff:

Yeah, so guys, give me an idea here, so I, you know, I’m tech director, I am interested in e-sports. I think there may be some advantages to getting more students involved in technology. I’m looking at a list of games here, you know, legal legends Hurlstone, Overwatch, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. I’ve been seeing actually NBA to K and Madden on there. What’s a safe place to start with if I’m a tech director thinking, you know, it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and look at possibly getting one of these games started what would be two safe entry level games to start with.


  • Isaiah:

So I think.


  • Ranger:

Rocket League and smash for me.


  • Isaiah:

Rocket League and smash both, those are two big ones right now. Every school is kind of different. We that’s why we put out a survey. So if you’re really serious about starting one of those titles, I would just list those titles in like a form and have like students answers that form on like a grand scale. So you can see the feedback of what are the most popular titles for our district, our district. It was.


  • Ranger:

It was Valorant. And I think Super Smash.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, right? Yeah, I’d say so. And like other districts, they have huge Rocket League pools players. We don’t we have like about five right now and other schools have like four or five teams of Rocket League. So it really is specific to your district and not really what your student body is interested at the moment.


  • Jeff:

And yeah, and obviously, I’ve seen those titles on lists that are associated with universities that are offering scholarships for those specific titles, so that’s fantastic. What do I have to do to get started with this from a technology standpoint, right?

I know a lot about computers. I don’t know a lot about gaming computers. Walk me through the difference between the computers that I’m giving my kids as part of their one to one program. So maybe it’s a Chromebook. It could be all the way up to maybe like a, you know, some Lenovo or Dell Inspiron. But what what do the students need in order to engage in? E-sports as a starter, don’t give me your Cadillac and your star.


  • Zack:

In your budget line like, all right, I’m a school…


  • Isaiah:

$3000 desktop, Alienware only know what we would… I hear a lot of schools they have been able to do like mobile fleets. So I’ve been able to do like laptop ready hardware. But the majority is usually it’s desktop level, if not your desktop and your key components when it comes to playing video games in terms of hardware is right now, you really want a minimum of like a quad core CPU, you want a dedicated graphics card. So you sort of throw out some names like our computers. We have 1660s in them and they run any of our e-sports titles. And just decide no esports titles in general are typically really easy to run besides, like maybe a few, but they’re all very well developed so that you can run it on what people will say is like a potato.

You can run it on a potato is what these four styles are, usually how they develop. So are you a at least a quad core CPU you can manage with like eight gigs of RAM? You really the recommendation now in the field is like 16 and then obviously enough storage space to hold all your games.

And for us, that’s just been desktops. When it comes to like monitors and such, you will benefit from a high refresh rate. So we have 144 hertz refresh rate monitors with one millisecond input lag. And then we have a couple of other like ultralights, which aren’t the best for e-sports, but they’re good for titles like Legalisms or Rocket League and that sort of thing. Does that kind of answer a little bit when it comes to hardware?


  • Jeff:

Yeah, it definitely does. And I think so as I’m computing this and trying to figure out what does it take for me to step into it if I’m a standard tech director, probably managing anywhere from a half million dollar annual budget all the way up to a budget, that’s that’s tens of millions.

We’re talking about this. This is potentially a fractional component of my budget. In an era where a good chunk of my budget might currently be funded by some of the funds that are coming in from either federal or state dollars associated with pandemic relief, so this could be really a prime time to reallocate some of that money

that I might otherwise have been putting into tech that now is being funded by external sources into launching one of these e-sports teams. So give me an example if I had to launch an E-Sports team for a program that’s about your size.

Do you have any idea what that maybe again, not the Cadillac budget would be, but maybe what like that ideal budget number might look like. So for the tech to everyone out there listening pool amount?


  • Isaiah:

Yeah. So we I would argue you really want to want anything less than like ten gaming stations with a lot of games being five person teams that allows you to have kind of like a varsity JV. If you want to be safe, you can do like eleven.

So you have one machine backup that’s up to you guys. But for like a ten gaming’s gaming station set up, you’re looking at computers themselves. They can range from anywhere from like 750 to 1000 for your budget computers.

At least those were what we were looking at the times. And right now, honestly, our awful time to be purchasing in terms of like consumer level because everything’s just short. Chip shortages, prices are going up, but 750 to 1000 for machines.

You’re looking at closer to 7500 to 10,000 for the machines themselves, then being spect for E-Sports and such. And then monitors. Monitors are still relatively affordable, cheap. So I think ours were about 110 or 120. So ten of those, you know, you’re looking at like 85 to eleven, twelve hundred.

And do you have the furniture? You don’t include that. It’s just computer hardware. Yeah, I’d say that about like 80 500 to around 12,000, you can do it. A good beginning structure for your e-sports program.


  • Jeff:

And your program is serving how many kids?


  • Isaiah:

We are serving right now. I see roughly around 45.


  • Ranger:

Yeah, so we have different teams coming on different days. That’s how we manage it to make it easier and give each kid like a good environment to play in and not be completely messed with other kids and things like that. So we service around like 40 each week and then like ten on each day that we have practice. Yeah, that’s awesome, and like.


  • Zack:

So what about you? I hear there’s like I said, I’m going from not really knowing gaming mice and gaming keyboards, is that typically something students would have on their own or would that also be provided by the lab too?


  • Isaiah:

So, yeah, I kind of skimmed over peripherals. The we from what we’ve seen so far is there are certain students there that are like hyper competitive. They’ll usually have their own gear. They usually have a computer at home, so they have their own mice and keyboard and you get accustomed to that.

So a lot of times we have some students who bring in, like half of our Valorant team brings in their own mouse because it’s like a super like, super fast everything and then they’re on keyboard as well because they get used to their switches on those keyboards.

So when you do see that. But we provide a Logitech keyboard, mouse and headset so that every station, no student has to bring in anything. It’s just all you need is you and yourself and your interests walk in and play.


  • Zack:

What’s that cost for the Logitech for all three?


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, the headset was about 80. The mouse was like 30, and then the keyboard was like 70. So that’s roughly close to 20 to 250 times about.


  • Zack:

So it sounds like about 15 hundred dollars, and station is pretty is a pretty conservative number like you can stay at $15 or less for everything. And I it after the call, I’d actually like to work with you, maybe doing like a bronze silver.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, Tier list.


  • Zack:

Because I think that would be fun to kind of send out to just have that list attached to the podcast. So schools are like, hey, like, you know, I’ve got 15 grand, I can invest into this and I have like an old computer lab that I’m not using anymore because I think that that would be really interesting


  • Isaiah:

It’s starting actually, Yeah.


  • Jeff:

And as you as a process, that’s the thing that’s sticking out in my mind is when you compare this to a traditional in-person sport that has all of the equipment associated with it, transportation costs, you know, referees, things like that like this.

And I’m not saying that you don’t pay to go into some of the tournaments that you go into, but there seems to be a the ability to serve a pretty sizable population of kids for a shoestring budget relative to what other sports may cost.

And to me, that’s my entry point into conversations with the school principal, school superintendents and ultimately the school board saying, Hey, if we’re looking at cost per student engaged, here’s how I line up next to a standard football program, basketball program, baseball program, et cetera.

And my guess is is that there is just such a significant difference there that you’ll be able to gain some traction. And with the start up costs that you just identified and the pandemic relief that schools just got, even if chip cost and things like that are going up now is the time to reallocate some of that technology budget to make this stuff possible for kids.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah, I think not to cut up. I think a lot of the cost of E-Sports is relatively upfront. So once you get past that first barrier, it really is just about like lifespan of hardware. E-sports titles are going to be easy to run in general.

So, you know, lifespan of a GPU of a CPU, I mean, you can get five plus years out of these things. So most cost for any sports program is going to be completely upfront.


  • Zack:

And you can probably honestly set up a refresh cost just a yearly refresh cost. OK, we’re going to allocate just say we have a four year refresh rate on everything you can just say, OK, this costs us this cost that’s about $3,500 a year for us to have that not including, you know, the back money you get where you could sell the old rigs or if you if you get cabs, you can honestly just upgrade this. You could upgrade just the chip, you could upgrade just the graphics card and you wouldn’t even have to buy like all the components at once.

I think that’s really interesting. Now, one question I had is, can parents watch these matches? Like, Is there a way for is there a way for like fans or people who are coming like family, friends or whatever to watch this like watch you spark is like, what? There be a way of cheating and some other things like that’s that’s one of my big questions I have for that.


  • Ranger:

Yeah. So we… sports like these they all get streamed online. There’s different streaming services like Twitch, if you’ve heard of it and we are still setting up our Twitch stream so that we can show our fans and our parents the games.

But like big tournaments and things like that and other schools do stream their games every day that they practice or that they have a game and multiple viewers show up every every time.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah. And a good kind of student body and corporation where I see a lot of school districts doing what I hope we get to at some point is there’s actually positions in e-sports that are just media production students.

So they’re the ones actually editing the live streams, uploading to YouTube. So now you have not only, you know, a way for parents to see, Oh, my son, my daughter, they’re doing great in e-sports, are loving it. But also now we’re giving options of benefits to students that can learn from actual production quality media that those kind of.


  • Ranger:

Things, even things like shout casting, like if if students want to be basketball, shout casters in the future, our broadcasters, anything like that, they get that it’s real into practice. They can put that on their college resume and say, like, Hey, look at my footage that I that I streamed and…


  • Zack:

Wait wait, so you’re telling me that there are students who watch the live stream and then are like, they’re like sportscasters. They’re like, Hey, I just did this. That’s really difficult or whatever. So like, there is really kind of like a full production behind this. That’s that’s an interesting I don’t know if that’s.


  • Ranger:

That’s what we know.


  • Jeff:

This is where when you when you think about one of the main jobs in schools, right, is to make sure that kids feel connected. And we know that kids through participation in athletics have a greater connection to their schools and graduated higher percentages than other populations of kids.

But yet we don’t aggressively pursue what, what, what Isaiah is bringing to us today. We don’t aggressively pursue this idea of e-sports as a way of actually furthering those marks and those measures in the way that you’ve just identified it says, Hey, whether you’re a new sports athlete or you’re somebody who supports, to your point, Zack, the

EA, E-Sports production, you’re engaged actively now in your community of peers, which we know has a research base in helping you graduate at a higher rate and perform better in school. This is tremendous stuff and at a shoestring budget for startup relative to traditional sports programs.

This just seems like a home run right now, given that not only this, the pandemic and the funding that’s available, but just kind of the state of schools in general. This is this is really great stuff, and I hope the folks out there are really paying attention and taking notes on what they can do to start.


  • Ranger:

And to add to that, Jeffrey. A lot of our students, like 80% of our students, are students that don’t even participate in sports and traditional sports at school. So we’re really reaching out to that group that don’t really get out much. And we’re bringing them in and we’re giving them a really great environment that they can learn and grow and then hopefully take that to higher education.


  • Jeff:

That is a phenomenal stat for anybody that anybody, if you are out there listening and you are pitching this and you can say, Hey, we may be able to engage in our own our target population. Up to 80% of kids who are not otherwise engaged in our school has phenomenal stat right there.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And in end, just with like how the culture is changing as well, with a lot more people wanting to be like, you know, YouTube like influencers and social media influencers like this is their ability to promote something.

Because right now with sports, right? Like if you’re a media person, you’re there with a camera that’s stationary and you’re going back and forth while they play. Right. This is like a whole nother set of people to learn in the future, honestly, of digital media in and out of stream and how to set it up.

And I think like when you start looking at this is much larger than. Just the actual athletes that are doing these sports, this is like a whole group and subculture at a school that can learn a lot of extremely valuable future skills, which is incredible. I don’t even think about that and all the stuff that’s incorporated that.


  • Isaiah:

I know you can. You can be involved with these sports and you can go up to the collegiate level and you can have a professional sports and never play the games. It could be just the media production and the casters, even right now, like our masters is on right now and the games are like 30 minutes apart. But then between those 30 minutes, like all it is analytics forecasters talking, there’s a huge media production behind it all.


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s incredible. That’s really incredible. So I’m a tech director. I’m so busy. I don’t have time to think about anything else other than keeping devices in my students hands. You’re you’re a technology director, you want to get this going.

How much time I looking at and investing right, by the time I’m trying to get all the equipment getting it set up or is it really kind of a set it and forget it? And then another question on top of that that you can answer sequentially is is the key to having a good program is having a passionate coach. Is that a teacher, is that someone from a tech team, you know, because I think like anything like this, it’s only going to succeed if you have someone who is is is devoted to making sure it’s successful.


  • Isaiah:

Yeah. No, I would. I mean, I’m not going to argue against not having a devoted coach, I think it’s a huge play. I think Brian and I were fortunate that we’re relatively younger. We still play the titles that are being supported and we’ve grown up playing video games are all life, so it really fit in for us.

To add to that, I think coaches should either one have a decent like a little bit of a tech background, or at least have a good relationship with the technology department that are hosting it. Because whereas in traditional sports, you really don’t run into technicality of things, but any sports, it’s all just technology.

So a certain softwares may quit running or like your game crashes in the middle of a tournament or something like that. So you don’t have to be quick on your feet when it comes to technology, but it’s not necessarily a necessity. I guess you could say it just would be very helpful if your coach had a somewhat of a technology background.


  • Zack:

So probably first steps. I’m a technology director, someone in technology to get this running first, identify somebody who’s passionate in some sort of leadership in the school. I’m guessing it would be really difficult to do as a parent or something to run a program.

I’m not sure. Jeff, I mean, I guess, Jeff, for you to answer, you’ve been in the school. What would you do if you’re going to get this program going? Who who would you look to identify to run any sports program in your district?


  • Jeff:

Well, it depends, but I’ll tell you a lot of times if if you toss out the idea of starting something like this and you get a couple of students that come in and begin speaking with you, they’re going to actually be the first place I go to then identify a coach. Great. You want to do this? Who’s your favorite teacher? Who’s your who’s you know, who’s your favorite coach that you currently have and maybe a traditional sport? Or who’s a recent graduate? Right. That’s at one of the area colleges that can come in and coach this and let the kids participate in identifying that coach.

If that doesn’t work, then I think you just do a community posting with with the, you know, the benefits to the students outline, and I think you’re probably going to be able to pull somebody in. But I like the idea of having the kids identify essentially their coach up front.

And then from there, I again like, I think, you know, I don’t I don’t know about your folks opinions on this call, but I think. I think you start with programs and sports that are already identified by the Indiana Association of E-Sports that runs this as having like state champions, right?

I’m on a state champion page right now and I’m seeing Super Smash Bros and seeing division for Rocket League and Hearthstone and other ones. So it’s really neat for me to see all that stuff out there. So I think like number one, I start by saying “OK, let’s go after titles that already have crowned state champions because there’s going to be automatic buy-in by my school board that these folks are going to do it.” The second thing I want to do is advertise those titles to kids and see which kids are interested. Great. Now I have my kids.

Now let’s find my coach once my coaches there. Then I go into technology acquisition. And as somebody who runs technology and has as identified that kids are phenomenal resources for even setting up technology, I tend to lean towards freeing myself up a little bit by identifying those wonky kids that have already built their own computers at home are interested in this program and could take the equipment that I’m buying and assist with set up free of charge because they’re so interested in getting this thing launched. Those would be kind of my first steps that I’m thinking about how that how do you guys feel about that idea?


  • Isaiah:

No, you’re completely correct. The same kids are bringing in like their own custom made keyboards. They’re pretty tech savvy. So where we see issues arising is not usually what, like the hardware itself, it’s usually in. How does the school manage, like what our system settings that are restricted, certain things that students wouldn’t be able to get to use to troubleshoot like, for instance, we don’t allow an access to our student domain. We don’t allow them to open up task manager for obvious reasons. So then if they wanted to kill an application or had a task at something someone with elevated rights we need to do. That’s the kind of situation we see issues with, not actually with the technology misunderstanding or.


  • Ranger:

And the games have to be updated almost weekly. So students don’t have those rights either. So those those computers do have to be updated.


  • Isaiah:

With a staff log in, staff.


  • Ranger:

Log in and all that have.


  • Zack:

Now, Jeff, is that something where a student athlete who’s like leading could be given that access? Or is that kind of against permissions? Or I mean, I don’t know how detailed the school can get on getting permission to do certain things on certain computers.


  • Jeff:

I think you can get pretty specific. I would have to think that there would be a there would be a lot of benefit to attack director identifying the ten computers that are part of this program with within their infrastructure and saying that, you know, those student leads have the ability to do that.

So those student leads may be part of a student led tech team that also helps service other elements of the school. Or it may just be who are kind of the senior, most or most trustworthy folks on the use force, teams that have been identified that could essentially have access to this because again, you’re only talking about a really limited number of machines that you would have to give away those permissions on and you’re free that technology director up and their staff from having to do those, you know, essentially, like you’re saying weekly updates to these programs to make sure that E-Sports goes uninterrupted. You’d also hate to be at a tournament and not have the ability to do that right.


  • Isaiah:

Right now, it’s it’s a little bit to kind of fill in a little feedback on how internally we manage we use scheme at our district and we can we have those set up in their own group so that we can push updates manually.

We can also remote into those computers from our central office and just perform manual updates from there. That’s in terms pretty much like the hardware of how we manage it or.


  • Zack:

Awesome. I think this is incredible, and what you guys have done in Concord is incredible and kind of just in closing, if you could outline kind of the biggest mistakes you think a school can make starting a team out and then the biggest things that like you need to do this to be successful if you were to give people three or four, things like this is how you’re going to be successful. What would they be?


  • Isaiah:

I think at least one for me personally is. If you go about choosing a title before you know what your student census is, that’s going to be a big mistake. It’s really difficult. I mean, just like with any student, if you try to shove a student in a football that has no passion to play football, they’re not going to perform. They’re not going to care. If you support, say, you picked out a titles apex and Super Smash Bros. And your school body only likes to play Rocket League and Valorant. You’re going to have a very low adoption when it comes to your program.

So students have a lot of power in that sense that really you want to tend to yeah. What are the best titles that offer the best possibilities, like post high school, but also what are students going to play right now because you get the titles in them and their friends are playing? Your program is going to grow quickly?


  • Ranger:

Yeah, I’ll tell you a couple for me. The first one would be don’t cheap out on the equipment and the room that you pick or the facility that you pick really try to design that room for it, specifically e-sports or and just really try to design that room with everything that’s needed. Like, don’t report on the gaming computers on the furniture. You need all that so that the students really feel like they want to get in there and they’re going to compete and they’re going to give their best. Right?

The second one would be. Whoever is going to lead is worth whether that be the coach, teacher, whatever it may be. Make sure just that you pick someone that’s really wants to be there and really pushes the students to be their best to have fun. And because colleges are going to want to come in and they’re going to want to come and talk to your students. They’re going to they’re going to talk about scholarships and all these things. And you really want a coach that knows what they’re doing. Or at least wants to understand and just really helps the students as well.


  • Zack:

So that’s what I think those are all really, really good points. And you’re right, like kind of what we talk about in technology is student buying and staff buying. And that should be your immediate focus is how do I get them to buy in so I have the most students getting involved in the most teachers and staff getting involved. Well, I want to thank you guys so much for your time talking about this topic. I’m really excited about this. And then I’m going to say I’m going to work with you to get that kind of like bronze silver gold package, maybe for a lab, for them to set up. And then we will post a link to that with this podcast. Jeff, do you have any more questions for them before we hop off?


  • Jeff:

I don’t I think that the advice, though, is it’s just so timely and gives the opportunity. You know, like the stat that was provided, 80% of folks that are participating in these sports are otherwise not engaged in sports in school, getting that population engaged. It’s just such a critical thing to do, and this offers an excellent pathway into that.


  • Zack:

I agree. Awesome. Thank you, everybody, for hopping on the podcast, and then we’ll talk to you later.


  • Isaiah:

Thanks again. Nice talking to you guys.

Show transcript