THS ESports team builds new lab

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – Generation ESports’ High School ESports League (HSEL) recently selected Thompson High School as one of the winners of their “Build an ESport Lab” campaign, which sees the selected school receive a brand new ESports lab.

The state-of-the-art lab will feature six high-spec gaming PCs and peripherals, including hi-tech processors, motherboards, GPUs and monitors.

According to Spencer Stone, the coach for the team, this new equipment will provide the team with greater capabilities and put them at the forefront of their competition with regional and national teams.

“These gaming computers are nicer than any of the computers that we currently own,” Stone said. “They will allow us to be able to play the games that are out now, and to run better games that come out in the future. This will push us forward to where we will not have to upgrade our systems for five to 10 years.”

One of the unique aspects of the builds was the way that HSEL included the ESports team in the construction of the lab.

“People often talk about how great children and teenagers know technology, but when it comes to more technical things like this they really do not,” Stone said. “The good thing is that the Army National Guard came in to walk our players through building the computers. This adds another skill to their instruction that is not just ESports.”

THS’s ESports team was founded within the last two years with 15 students and has since expanded to around 30, playing on seven different teams that compete in a number of different games in both regional and national tournaments.

Stone said that this program has shown to become a success not only through winning in the ESports State Championship, but as a way to build morale and strong, positive outlooks for the players on team.

“ESports has allowed them to do what they love, while being a part of the school’s activities,” Stone said. “The team was founded to allow students who were not piped into traditional activities to have an activity under the Thompson umbrella.”

This benefit was made evident by the team members during the application process for the HSEL campaign.

“Some of the players and I did an interview process after being selected from the first round of the campaign,” Stone said.  “I got to hear the players talk about how the ESports team made them feel like they were more part of the school and more in-tune with other teams. ESports has truly allowed them to do what they love.”

With this new equipment being brought in, Stone hopes that the program will be more accessible to a larger number of students as virtual students return to the school over the next year.

“COVID-19 pushed some of our kids to play virtually this year, and next year when we have a higher percentage of kids in the buildings this new equipment will allow us to offer more games and have more teams practice at the same time,” Stone said. “Anytime we are able to expand our lab we can expand our offerings to more students is a great thing. Where the lab is right now, we can technically have 24 students at one time in one room gaming full time.”

The excitement for the future of the program was evident not only with Stone, but with his players as well. The thrill of receiving the new equipment brought a palpable joy to the players as they assembled it.