With sports dead, students find spirited alternative

Organizers of the St Patrick’s eSports league included these Grade 11 students, from left, front row: Derk Rikken, Adam Fojna, Ethan Hyde, Everett Bell and Colin Wilson; back row: Logan Lambert, Tiago Campos, Kyle Pearson, Hayden Pereira and Liam Chicoine. Submitted Photo

Troy Shantz
An eSports league organized by students at St. Patrick’s High School proved so popular even staff tuned in to watch its matches.

Almost 100 students participated in the lunch-hour Rocket League matches run by Grade 11 communications technology students.

The live-streamed broadcasts were hosted on a website the students created, complete with game commentary.

“Even admins and principals, whenever they were having lunch in the conference room, were watching it on the big screen,” said Tiago Campos, part of a student group that earned the nickname ‘The Pandemics.’

In Rocket League games, teams of two or three face off using souped-up cars to bash and bump an enormous ball in a gigantic game of soccer.

The student group includes Campos, Logan Lambert, Kyle Pearson, Hayden Pereira, Liam Chicoine, Derk Rikken, Adam Fojna, Ethan Hyde, Everett Bell, and Colin Wilson, who figured out the technical side and met with staff to develop a plan to keep participants safe.

The idea took root after sports and clubs and other events were cancelled, and helped boost morale and school spirit, said teacher Robert Walicki.

Other students contributed videos, music videos, posters and design elements for the final broadcast on Nov. 13, which replaced in part St. Pat’s traditional homecoming, he said.

“It’s not only about the game; they made it about the entire school.”

The one-hour grand finale featured the top two teams emerging from a weeklong competition squaring off, complete with national anthem, a half-time show, and pre-game and post-game interviews.

The website at sphsesports.ca also offered contests with prizes and ways to donate to charitable causes.

“We’re trying to make it feel as big of an event as we possibly can while keeping it virtual,” Pandemics member Colin Wilson said prior to the final.

“It’s amazing. I’m glad that everyone is enjoying it,” Campos added.

“To see people that who don’t even play video games — like our principal — are into it and having a great time and watching. It feels good.”

The students are already pondering an even grander event next year.

“Once Coronavirus is over this could evolve into something even better,” said student Logan Lambert, noting they had limited resources at its disposal.

“It’ll get bigger and bigger.”

Walicki said the students learned new skills while planning and delivering a community event in times of COVID.

“They are the teachers; I’m just here,” he added with a laugh. “To be honest I am so lucky. This is one of the most amazing groups of kids that I’ve had.”