eSports are here to stay, that much is clear and as of the 2019-2020 school year, the Fargo Public School system has fielded a team each year to provide a competitive, fun and team-building-focused environment for an ever-growing number of interested student-athletes looking to compete in Rocket League and League of Legends.
Head Coach Rick Reichenbach, who founded the program during the 2019-2020 school year and has been playing video games since the early 80s, decided to set up a meeting with the high school activities director after a few of his students at Fargo South Highschool, where he teaches computer science coursed, had inquired about starting a team to compete in a number of titles he’s familiar with.
“I talked to the activities director and found out that he already had money set aside for computers, he was just waiting for someone to ask to set up a program,” Reichenbach said.
From there, Reichenbach began developing a program based on commitment, teamwork and fun.
“They have to work together, but they also have to be committed to practicing and be there on time for game start; they have to commit just like every THE COACH other sport you play,” Reichenbach said.
What is rocket league?
Rocket League is a video game in which players play soccer… with rocket-powered cars. The game is great for team play, as each player can drive their own car, giving the game an element of communication, which is critical in team sports.
The game was originally released for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 4 in July 2015. Since then, it has gained a wide following and is played in both the ESL Gaming GmbH and Major League Gaming.
This past season, Mandy Latterner was the youngest player on the high school team. In fact, she wasn’t even a high schooler yet, but a middle schooler. However, that didn’t stop her from making a major impact and competing in the state tournament.
Lattnerner’s passion for gaming started when she was just six years old, playing Minecraft on her first console, an Xbox 360. Prior to last year, she had never played a video game for anything more than fun and she hadn’t participated in a structured sport since taking gymnastics lessons and playing soccer when she was very young, but Lattnerner was quick to jump at the opportunity to join the team.
“I actually much prefer working as a team with other people than working by myself—but that oftentimes just depends on the day,” Lattnerner said. “Working in a team environment can open up a lot more opportunities, and it makes communication a lot easier, especially when you’re in person instead of over a party or in a game chat because there are lags or people will cut out. When you’re in person you can actually tell each other things without cutting out.”
Sameer Colbert (left) and Zachary Catalan (right) are actually no longer members of the team as they graduated high school. Colbert will be going to Columbia University and Catalan will be going to Concordia College this fall. Both will be remembered forever in the program as champions after winning the SMITE PlayVS Central Region Championship in fall 2020.
“It was awesome,” Catalan said. “It was a pretty long tournament and was definitely a lot of work. The operation and skill you have to build among your team in order to work skillfully is a lot. I was very happy to win the championship.”
New in Town
Micah Klein is another former member of the team who has moved on to his post-graduate plans and will be attending Minnesota State Community and Technical College with the goal of earning an associate’s degree in engineering.
Klein, originally from Park Rapids, MN, moved to Fargo during his Sophomore year of high school and finally found a home after joining the team.
“I had been playing for a while and had been meaning to meet some new people,” Klein said. “I wasn’t too good at that since I was new to the Fargo area. I came there halfway through my sophomore year. I spent a full year as a junior thinking I should maybe do this but didn’t know if I was good enough for it. During my senior year, I decided to do it and I’m sad I didn’t join sooner. It was a great experience.”
What is League of Legends?
League of Legends is a game in which two teams of five engage in player-versus-player combat with each team defending their own half of the map. Each player controls a “champion” with their own unique abilities.
The game was published in 2009, and is free to play and available on Microsoft Windows and macOS.
New to eSports (not to gaming)
Just like Latterner, Elliott Sticka got his start playing Minecraft around the time he would have been entering kindergarten. His gaming journey, which started not long after he had been in diapers, escalated in 2019 when he began playing Rocket League competitively.
“It’s been really fun to actually get to know people because sometimes a lot of people judge a book by its cover,” Sticka said. “Kids will think someone looks like a nerd or whatever, but when you meet them in the gaming room, they’re actually really cool and they are intelligent people. It’s fun being with them and joking around with them.”
What eSPORTS Has Brought Them
If a student would like to join the FPS esports league they can contact Rick Reichenbach at email@example.com