For the first time ever, Novato High is fielding an Esports team this year, consisting of the school’s most elite gamers. Esports, video games that people play competitively online, has seen a huge rise in popularity across the world and is expected to have a viewership of 557 million people in 2021. Novato High is the first school in Marin to enter interscholastic video game competitions and join an amatauer high school league.
The Hornets compete with around 50 other schools throughout California, including teams from the Bay Area, Northern California, and Los Angeles. The skilled Novato High gamers compete in 2 games chosen by the CIF: League of Legends and Rocket League.
The Esports Hornets squad consists of 12 members (two teams of 3 for Rocket League and one team of 5 for League of Legends with a sub). They practice twice a week and have matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Senior Dennis Lee was surprised when he heard the news of an Esports team.
“I thought it was really funny,” said Lee. “I don’t think anyone on the Esports team really thought it was gonna be an actual sport or people would take it seriously.”
The Esports team won their first competition against Magnolia High School, a Rocket League face-off. Rocket League is a popular game in which players are essentially playing soccer with fancy cars pushing the ball around the arena. The Hornets won by a landslide, winning a best out of 5 series, while scoring 38 goals overall and allowing just 2 on defense.
In League of Legends, the goal of the game is to destroy the opponent’s nexus which is like their base. Lee plays the role of AD Carry for the League of Legends team, in which his job is to gather items from his teammates and deliver most of the physical damage in order to “carry” the team to victory.
Lee shared what it takes to be an advanced gamer.
“Definitely a lot of critical thinking. Being able to analyze how a game works and how you can get certain advantages is pretty important to being a good player, even more so than your reaction time sometimes,” he said. “Also communication is extremely important because It’s a very team-based game. If you can’t play with your team, you really can’t stand a chance, especially when the other team is a coordinated five-man team.”
When asked what will be the keys to success this year, Coach Danny Kambur had one word in mind.
“Communication. Straight up communication,” Kambur emphasized. “These guys have played together a lot in the past. But communication and being able to talk to one another is key. When they played in the past, they were usually at their own homes playing on headsets. Here, they are sitting next to their teammates in the computer lab so they have to talk over one another and project their voices loud enough so someone else can hear.”
“Kambur is really good at getting us to talk. He asks us like ‘hey what could we have done better there?’ The things he was able to bring from his previous coaching experience and apply them to Esports, he definitely did and it really got us talking and he definitely has set us on a path where we can improve. And he’s also really funny.”
The Hornet’s goals extend further than just making the playoffs.
“Our goal is to win a pennant,” said Kambur. “Nothing would make me happier than for some kid, years from now, to be sitting in the Gordon Gym and be looking at all those pennants up there from like the 60’s and 70’s and a pennant up there that says ‘varsity League of Legends’ or ‘varsity Esports.’ To me, that would be so satisfying.”
On the topic of pennants in the gym, the space is usually reserved for traditional sports. Although, it looks like new sports can be added into the sports landscape. Esports has been a successful addition to NHS altogether.