“We don’t have the big physical aspect of it, we’re not putting our bodies on the line,” said Baker High School ESports coach Justin Tolbert.
“It was kind of a joke I would tell people at first – Yeah I’m a varsity athlete, where’s my letterman jacket?” said Townsend Days. “Now I’m sitting here and we made playoffs and I’m a little nervous.”
It’s most certainly no joke.
ESports competitions are becoming a huge hit all over the country, and this year Alabama joined in on the boom.
“Our athletic director Paul Agnew sent an email out at the start of the school year saying we had this opportunity sanctioned through the Alabama High School Athletic Association to bring ESports to the school and I replied much quicker than he expected,” said coach Tolbert.
And finding enough students to field a team was no problem.
“I even had students after the season started, and the hype really started to build, they showed up and they wanted to sign up late and I had to turn them away,” said coach Tolbert.
The Baker Hornets are in the playoffs competing in Rocket League and League of Legends.
“It’s kind of addicting,” joked Townsend. “I keep trying to leave and new things come out and you just keep coming back to it.”
Even though their field of competition may be different than what most people are used to, their preparation isn’t much different from more traditional sports.
“There’s a lot of strategy involved, and there’s individual knowledge within the game for different characters,” said coach Tolbert.
“Sure we do scouting reports where we look at different schools, so we can see where they usually go and what people they’re picking and what can we do to counteract that,” said Townsend.
By all accounts, Baker’s first ESports season has been a success, and the athletes all agree their new sense of community and family has been the best part of the journey.
“It’s really hard to find like-minded people, especially at Baker (High School). You’re moving around between classes and stuff up and down the hallways and you don’t have a lot of time to stop and communicate,” said Dreu Dixon. “Having a club like this helps with connection and building friendships.”