Local Students from 9 Schools Compete in Video Game Tournament hosted by Idaho Falls District 91

A student is engaged in a video game during an Esports competition at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls on Saturday morning. To witness the highlights, click on the video above. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

Idaho Falls was filled with action on Saturday morning. Pupils from six high schools and three middle schools assembled for the second annual Esports tournament at Compass Academy.

The contest is a competitive video game tournament that pits students against each other. The participants are divided into teams according to their school affiliation, and each team faces off against another team in their age group.

The games include a five-on-five shooter, one-on-one fighting, and three-on-three car soccer. Witness the action in the video above.

Students will be vying for the top position until 5 p.m. with trophies being given to the victors.

RELATED | Idaho Falls School District 91 hosts its inaugural esports competition, much to the delight of the students

Gericke Kohn, the lead for Esports at Idaho Falls School District 91, informs EastIdahoNews.com that the tournament is an invitation-only event in anticipation of the commencement of the statewide Esports season on February 12.

Kohn explains, “The aim is to foster relationships between the schools. We are striving to build Esports leagues, not just for ourselves, but for the entire region. In the statewide league, we will be competing against individuals from all over the state. At the end of the season, we all come together for a state championship.”

This year’s event is significantly larger than last year’s, which was exclusively a District 91 event. With more students participating, it is the first time that teams are competing in the statewide league, which began about five years ago.

Tito Peredes, the IT Director of District 91, had been advocating for an Esports competition for several years. In 2023, he finally succeeded in garnering the school district’s support for an initial investment in computers, games, and other equipment.

Peredes elaborates, “I wasn’t aware of a couple of Scholastic clubs in some of our schools when we initially started. I received an invite to attend the Boise State competition and I was astonished by their program and the scholarship opportunities they were providing for kids. I returned here and had some discussions and set the wheels in motion (to provide similar opportunities for our students).”

video game controller
Kohn mentions that by participating in this tournament, students can develop hand-eye coordination, among other life skills. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

Kohn, who has been a video game enthusiast since childhood, became involved as a voluntary coach and has relished every moment of it.

Similar to competitive sports, Kohn emphasizes that students acquire life skills through participation in this competition.

Kohn states, “You’re formulating a strategy and communicating with your team about it. You also encounter another team and develop the way you react to their style of play. Learning those communication and strategic skills, in addition to the hand-eye coordination, is extremely beneficial.”

Seventeen-year-old Thomas Christensen from Firth High School participated in a similar event last year, but this is his premiere appearance at a live state tournament.

An ardent gamer since the age of 10, Thomas was thrilled to compete in the tactical shooter game and is eager to see the expansion of the Esports league.

“I think it’s such an incredible program, and I’m very hopeful about what could transpire if we’re able to spread the word and get people on board,” he remarks.

He contemplates a career in cybersecurity after graduating and believes that the problem-solving facet of gaming is a valuable skill that will benefit him in that vocation.

“The ability to step back and examine things from a different perspective to devise a more efficient strategy is something that these games, in particular, excel at,” Thomas shares.

Braden Moats, a 14-year-old student at Taylorview Middle School, has been engaged in the car soccer game for multiple years, and when he learned of the establishment of a league, he was immediately interested.

He now serves as the team captain and, even though he has several years until he graduates, he recognizes some advantages that will be advantageous to him later in life.

“I’ve contemplated entering the medical field as an EMT or something similar, and the hand-eye coordination from playing video games could be advantageous for that career,” Braden says.

Kohn expresses that he is overjoyed to witness this program come to fruition, and he is thankful to the benefactors who have facilitated its execution.

Paul Gadbois, an advisor for the Thunder Ridge High School Esports team, reports that they recently received a $35,000 grant from the Idaho STEM foundation to provide approximately 10 laptops for students who wish to participate.

To make this a fully sanctioned school event, Kohn expresses the need for additional funding and welcomes any donations from the community.

“It assists us in maintaining this endeavor and ensuring that these opportunities are accessible to students,” Kohn states.

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