If you would have told Jason Kennah 10 years ago that when he turned 50, he would be in charge of a high school eSports program, he says he would have thought you were out of your mind. Yet here he is, loving every minute of it. What exactly is eSports though? The answer: competitive video gaming. Today the sport even has its own page on espn.com. To learn more about it, we talked with Jason going into the spring season as the team was still playing from home due to COVID-19. Pictured are Yair Chairez, Jackson Glenn, and Jack Ford, team members along with Liam Dwyer, Hugh Williams and Pascal Williams.
How did the Homewood Rocket League Patriots come into being at HHS?
About five years ago, I had a small group of my students ask if I would sponsor their League of Legends team. I agreed to sponsor them, and it was really fun. Then in 2019, I received an email from a student that I did not know named Jack Ford, who was wondering if I would be willing to do it again for a game called Rocket League. As fate sometimes does, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) decided in January of 2019 to officially make eSports a part of their organization by teaming up with a site known as PlayVS and offering state championships in a few eSports titles. Jack and I recruited some more players, and we started our first season in the spring of 2020. We came out strong for the fall 2020 season, finishing in second place in the state during the regular season.
How does the game work?
Simply put, Rocket League is soccer played with rocket powered cars that can boost into the air and fly. It is much, much more complicated than that, but that is the best way for me to describe it to someone who has never seen it. Three players on each team play in a five-minute match. It is played in an ellipse shaped virtual arena with a goal at either end. Whichever team scores the most goals in five minutes wins the match. Matches comprise a series. Most series are composed of three matches, so the best of three wins the series. There are also best of five and best of seven formats. The technical ability it takes to control your car and communicate with your teammates are the biggest challenges. It is an extremely fast-paced game.
What do you like most about sponsoring this group?
I loved playing video games when I was a student in the ‘80s, and those memories are reborn when I watch these players do what they do while having a great time together. I am very proud of what this team has accomplished so far.
Why do you think the team members choose to play?
The young people that play for us absolutely love the game, and they would be playing regardless of whether or not HHS had a team. They love taking on other players from around the state, especially ones that they already know from playing online. It gives them a sense of community and camaraderie when they play for Homewood.
Is there anything else you think people in the community should know about this team?
There are some people that may question eSports being a competitive league in our high schools and colleges. I would challenge those folks to name when football, basketball or any other competitive sport wasn’t viewed in the same light as it first started to become popular. Today, there are hundreds of colleges and high schools that offer eSports. Many colleges offer scholarships to the best players. This year, the Rocket League Championship Series X will have teams competing from around the world for a $4.5 million prize.