“Teamwork is the key to winning,” Coach Laredo Schwartz told me before a recent competition. “The way it’s structured you can be great at gaming, but the only way to win is for the team to work together and be effective at it.” Of course, what Coach Schwartz was referring to is the newest team competing at Hot Springs High School (HSHS). Starting with this school year, HSHS has its first eSports team, taking the name, the Torches, which they tell us stands for T-or-C High E-Sports.
The team is made up of five team players, along with two substitutes. Match competition pits teams of five, from various schools across New Mexico, against one another. Schools can field more than one team. The Torches compete on Tuesdays, with the season running until the end of April. Currently our team is holding a 4-2 record over their first six matches.
NMAA (New Mexico Activities Association, the sanctioning body for all high school and middle school sports and activities) added eSports to its list of activities two years ago, approving three computer-based video games that can be used in competitions. The one used by the Torches is League of Legends. There are teams from 44 schools across New Mexico competing in this game. As of now, there are no divisions and all schools are grouped together, regardless of size. The other games used are, Rocket League and Smite. Many schools field teams in more than one game, with Smite having the fewest involved. Currently HSHS does not have the technology available to be able to use Smite.
Currently the Torches team working under head coach Laredo Schwartz and assistant coach Timothy Briggs are, Team Players: Zack Bolen, Andres Guaderrama, Jimmy Robinson, Josh Valdez and Kahden Vienna, Substitute, Paul Kasiah and middle school representative and substitute, Ella Clark. The team competes on Tuesdays, practices after school and does all their work in the computer lab at HSHS.
Though different from other activities in many respects, eSports requires some skills common across many activities and sports sanctioned by NMAA participated in by schools. It requires teamwork, strategy and critical thinking as well as fast decision making, focus and attention to detail. These are things most coaches work to nurture in their teams.
Through 14 weeks the teams battle, with state championships held April 27-May 2. With schools closing early due snow on February 11, the match with Northwest High School had to be cancelled and will be rescheduled. All matches are held on Tuesdays. Next up for the Torches is a February 18 match with Newcomb High followed by Chaparral on February 25 and Del Norte, March 3.