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Saline High School has a new team sport that is very modern, unique and electronic.

SHS now has an official eSports team that is competing in the Michigan High School eSports League (MHSEL).

Esports is electronic sports through organized competitive video gaming.

To learn more about this new team, the Sun Times News (STN) connected with Saline Area Schools teacher and eSports coach Steve Vasiloff, who said the idea for creating the SHS eSports team began because of student interest.

“We had various clubs that were sponsored by staff members and administrators for games like Rocket League and Super Smash Bros, with more students applying to create them each year,” Vasiloff said. “We decided to bring them all together and create an eSports program.”

He said there are over 100 high schools in Michigan that have joined the league, with over 1,500 students involved. Each school year, there are two seasons with one in the fall and the other in the spring. The MHSEL currently offers a variety of games for students to compete in, along with the opportunity to win a state championship.

SHS students compete in League of Legends. photo courtesy of the SHS eSports team

Vasiloff said the games that they compete in at SHS are Rocket League, League of Legends, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. He said if you haven’t heard of these games, they are extremely popular titles that can be played as a team. He further explained:

  • Rocket League is 3 vs. 3 soccer, with cars instead of people! Teammates must work together to attack and defend, just like soccer.
  • League of Legends is essentially teams of 5 playing “capture the flag”, and requires a ton of strategy, communication, and collaboration to win.
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the latest iteration of Mario Kart, which has been around since 1992. Teams of 4 race against each other to see who is the fastest while protecting their teammates.
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate is the latest entry in the series that began in 1998. Teams of 3 choose their favorite Nintendo characters and fight, with a goal of knocking their opponent off of a platform.

The team in Saline is open to any current SHS student, who can register through Saline Community Education. Vasiloff said they have 26 team members on their roster for the fall season, with 2 Rocket League teams, 1 League of Legends team, 1 Mario Kart team, and 3 Super Smash Bros teams.

“Every week, we match up with other high schools across the state and compete against them,” he said. “This is done remotely, with no need to travel to other schools.”

He said they are hoping to have some teams earn spots at the MHSEL State Championships at Oakland University in December, which will be an in-person competition to determine which teams are the best in Michigan.

SHS eSports players who are also Rocket League players. photo courtesy of the SHS eSports team

“So far, we are 15-6 across all 4 games that we compete in, and are hopeful to make it to the championships,” Vasiloff said.

In asking about the team being formed, STN asked Vasiloff about the motivation behind it.

He said, “The motivation for doing so is that we wanted to create a place for underrepresented students to become involved in extracurriculars and form strong bonds with peers that have similar interests.”

“Almost half of all eSports players are not involved in other extracurricular activities, and we wanted to create a barrier-breaking, all-inclusive environment with a strong sense of community for these students,” he explained. “In Saline Area Schools, we follow the Saline Compass and teach the four primary skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. These attributes are what eSports is all about, as our students have to collaborate and communicate as a team, critically think about strategies and techniques, while also being creative in their gameplay in their attempt to win matches.”

Another motivator, he said, is scholarships.

“At this point, almost every major university in Michigan has an eSports team and offers scholarships, including schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kettering, Lawrence Tech, and Michigan Tech,” Vasiloff said. “We’d like to provide our students with the opportunity to pursue these scholarships and take what they have learned from our program into their post-secondary endeavors.”

If anyone would like to keep up with their team, visit their website at www.salineesports.org.

A look at SHS eSports players taking on Super Smash Bros Ultimate. photo courtesy of the SHS eSports team

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