OROVILLE — While they may not have a rallying cry or wear uniforms with protective gear, the Esports Team at Ishi Hills Middle School are serious gamers.

Esports or, electronic sports, is a competition among multiple players using video games. At Ishi, the team of 14 sixth through eighth graders play Rocket League and Super Smash Bros against each other and other student teams near and far.

In January, after twice-weekly practice and competition sessions, the team that, was started at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, competed in a tournament hosted by Central Middle School’s team and coach, Erin Jackson. Other schools competing included Chico Country Day, Achieve Charter and Magnolia Intermediate. The North State Esports League sponsored the tournament and provided the prizes, which included Nintendo and Xbox controllers.

“Central took first place in Rocket League and Ishi took second place. Chico Country Day took first place in Super Smash Bros and Central took second. We kind of kept it in the family,” said Brianna Paisley, Ishi seventh-grade teacher and Esports coach.

Caleb Ader, a seventh grader and one of the Rocket League team captains, said he started playing video games with his cousin when he was 6 years old. He was also the first Ishi student to sign up to be on the team.

“I’ve played a lot but never done a tournament before. It was exciting to see we were getting good, but it was stressful to think if we messed up we could ruin the chance of winning a round. It was fun though,” said Ader.

The $30,000 grant to fund Esports teams at both Ishi and Central came from state funding called the “Low Performing Schools Block Grant,” according to Paisley.

“Our superintendent, Dr. Spencer Holtom, is on the forefront of technology. He really thinks outside the box when it comes to looking at extra curricular activities we can bring in to give kids another reason to come to school,” said Paisley. “We all felt Esports would help with chronic absenteeism and overall student engagement. Andrew James, our assistant superintendent, helped to secure this amazing grant.”

Ader said that being on the Esport team and having to get to practice before school starts makes him “wake up before the alarm to get things done before I get to school.”

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