By Joseph Alonso
(Photo taken by Esports President Julian Gonzalez)
After over $200,000 dollars were raised and donated for this program, the esports program has only grown and expanded.
When it was conceptualized, the goal of this new program was simply to build a new and successful esports program that could win state and national titles and this goal would soon be accomplished with multiple championships and games being won by the team, such as Columbus being crowned Rocket League national champions.
Still, the path to greatness lies ahead.
In an article by Mary Ellen Flannery, senior writer at the National Educational Association, she writes:
"Since 2018, when the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) first recognized esports as an official sport, more than 8,600 high schools... started video-gaming teams."
And since then, this same concept has expanded and made its way to our own school.
During Walkathon 2021, Christopher Columbus High School's yearly fundraising event, the Azor Esports Complex was first announced to be built. For the students, this facility instantly makes the program one of the best in the nation. With top-of-the-line gaming computers and consoles, as well as state-of-the-art equipment and training devices, the complex is the perfect place for training.
Coach and moderator for the esports program Mr. Andrew Harriman is greatly appreciative of the donations used to start the program.:
"Thanks to the generous donations from Frank Azor ‘99 and Ozzie Gonzalez ‘03... [and] guidance from President Kruczek, Principal Dave Pugh and all Administration, faculty and staff that helped with this... we were able to build a state of the art gaming facility."
And rightfully so. This complex took months to fully finish due to all the work that went into it. With cabling, software, programming and getting equipment ready, the complex was built to house future champions.
For several years before the complex was said to be built, an esports club already existed which competed in both tournaments against other club members and other schools. Mr. Harriman continues on this,
"I started esports in 2017... And never imagined that we would have such amazing facilities."
It was the prominent growth of esports that really catalyzed this room to be built in the first place, and while the team did not have an abundance of success during this time, they still continued to grow and explore the realm of gaming at Columbus.
In an interview with a member of the esports club, who wishes to remain anonymous, he says:
"[In the] first year, [esports received] lots of attention during walkathon because of the room, but from then it started losing attention and popularity."
Of course, this is an entirely new program. Unlike the varsity sports at Columbus which have existed for decades and produced hundreds of collegiate athletes and dozens of professional athletes, the esports program has not been around as long to show the same success.
"[Last year] was our first year [with the gaming room] and we really didn’t have much of a history except for a Rocket League placing a few years back," Co-coach and co-moderator, Mr. Eduardo Sanchez says.
As more success comes, the club should continue to grow in popularity and spotlight.
Mr., Sanchez continues:
"...I firmly believe that as our team grows in its successes, the recognition will also continue to grow."
And of course, this is an obvious fact. If the team brings attention to itself with success, then Columbus will only continue to increase the attention towards it.
Abhijit Ahaskar of "Mint Magazine" corroborates this fact:
"The entry of eSports into mainstream media is significant because it builds a place for the players, and for the space to grow more and more... [and] such initiatives will help reach out to new audiences, and increase earning opportunities for career gamers."
With all this said, what can be done?
Simply put, engaging in more creative ways to grow the program is the only way.
This is an extremely broad idea, but hosting more esports events such as tournaments like their FIFA tournament, integrating esports into school culture, including esports at pep rallies or collaborating more with local media are all solutions that can greatly impact the perception around the program.
Of course, with everything the team has going on now during the start of their season, this is a tough feat. With continued support, the team can grow at a rate that was never expected at first.
Columbus Gaming is in its second year in the new facility and consistently competing. It is still a relatively young program and more success will come.
The road to greatness starts here.