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Columbus Esports Club Combines Critical Thinking Skills, Teamwork, and Scholarship Opportunities

Students Playing Computer Games

November 2, 2023 – Keyboards clatter as fingers fly frantically through well-practiced motions. Clicks of a computer mouse accompany the fast-paced rhythm that fiercely executes laser precision eye-hand coordination. 

The warmups of Columbus City Schools’ first esports (electronic sports) team have begun as they prepare for their upcoming double-header Fortnite competitions.

“Essentially, esports is competitive video gaming,” said Fort Hayes Arts & Academics Intervention Specialist and esports coach Zak Ogilbee. “Instead of playing on a field, we're playing on a computer gaming system against other schools.”

Ogilbee started coaching the inaugural team this fall at Fort Hayes. After hosting open tryouts for the varsity team, he narrowed it down to 10 players. These players meet every Monday evening to compete against teams throughout Ohio.

“During a Fortnite competition, 30 different schools all play at once in one big melee to see who wins, which helps determine each team’s ranking,” Ogilbee said. 

Currently, the two varsity teams are ranked third and sixth in their leagues. The teams just finished week four of the five-week fall season, with playoffs right around the corner. 

Although there will be a fall season champion, spring is more competitive with an increase in schools involved. The top schools of the spring competition are invited to play at the state championship hosted at the University of Akron, and the winner takes home a colossal trophy.

Esports can have some of the same benefits as traditional sports – such as teamwork, game strategy, and professional opportunities.

“Scholarships for esports are booming right now,” Ogilbee said. “There are tons of scholarships at the collegiate level if you are good at esports, which is an amazing thing.”

Many colleges have esports teams, and players can earn scholarships to attend school, just like any collegiate sport.  

“I think what we are doing here is awesome,” Ogilbee said. “The opportunities, including scholarships, that we are providing for these kids are limitless.”

A handful of colleges have already come to Fort Hayes to discuss future career opportunities. Students can attend college on an esports scholarship and major in Business Administration to secure a job in the esports field. Or, if majoring in graphic design, students could design or create video games.Student Gaming

Fort Hayes Career Center graphic design student Isaac Lin is already seeing how he can merge his two interests.

“I am in the graphic design career tech program and am hoping to design our esports team jerseys,” Lin said. 

For those players who didn’t make the Fort Hayes varsity cut this season but want to continue to brush up on their skills or connect with other gamers, Ogilbee started a club that meets once a week on Thursdays. 

“We’re getting these kids together who have the same interests, so they can form friendships,” Ogilbee said. “And then those become some of your best friends because you have shared interests.”

Even though esports is only an extracurricular now, Ogilbee hopes that one day it can become an actual class for students interested in pursuing video game careers.

“I’ve been playing video games for 11 years, and I’ve liked competing in Fortnite on my own for the past three years,” said Fort Hayes Arts & Academics sophomore Aiden Cotter. “I’m glad we can play it in an after-school club now. There’s just so much you could do with it as a career.”