Esports At Orange Lutheran High School

One of the newer opportunities on campus through Orange Lutheran Student Lift is the Lancer Esports program, a competitive gaming community that is part of one of the largest and fastest-growing sports in the country.


Esports got its start at OLu in 2020 as a club sport but then moved to official program status beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year. Now in its third full year, the program fields approximately 33 seats with 25 students filling those seats across JV and varsity teams that are recognized by CIF. The teams utilize space on campus in the Learning Commons which houses 12 PCs, five Nintendo Switches and other support equipment.


Lancers Esports is coached by Spencer King, who in addition to teaching science at OLu, has a passion for the gaming community and is committed to providing this opportunity to Lancer students.


“This is the beacon of light for those…who might have skills and talents behind a screen,” says King. “And so for people to express their skills in an organized way, we want to be able to give students not just an opportunity to flex those skills, but an opportunity to meet others with the same interests.”

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OLu fields teams in games such as Overwatch, Valorant, Apex, Super Smash Bros, Splatoon and Mario Kart. The number of players on each team depends on the game played, but between the JV and varsity levels and the amount of equipment available for use, King has been able to keep the program as a no-cut sport.


The Lancer teams compete in different leagues including Play Versus (PlayVS) and Valhallan Esports League (VHEL). OLu offers offseason competition during the fall, but CIF recognizes spring as the official Esports season and has partnered with North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) as the initiative’s platform.


Within each sport, the teams compete against opponents, both locally and across the country, that are grouped into divisions based on skill level. The top teams in each division after pool play advance to a single-elimination postseason bracket to determine the league champion.


Within these leagues, OLu faces several familiar athletic opponents in Mater Dei, Servite and St. John Bosco, and the Trinity League schools hold an annual LAN event to compete in a friendly tournament.

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“The community that we form is great and strong,” says King. “Some of those relationships that are made with our opponents are kept because I think video games hit different. There's something different about it in that even though they are your opponents, there’s a respect there.”


With only a few official seasons under their belts, the Lancers have already seen a high level of success, including winning an Overwatch league title in spring 2023. OLu also earned Super Smash Bros league runner-up in fall 2021 and 2022, Apex runner-up in spring 2023 and Overwatch runner-up in 2023.


The growth that Esports has seen nationally has not only been at the high school level, but is now expanding to the collegiate level, with teams forming and scholarship opportunities becoming available to highly skilled players at more than 200 colleges and universities across the country.


OLu senior Gabriel Hughes is taking advantage of that opportunity as he will be attending Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, on an Esports scholarship. The four-year Lancer Esports player is the first from the program to commit to a college Esports team. Hughes will not only be a player for Huntingdon but will also be casting for the program during the school’s live streams.


Through his participation in OLu’s Esports program, Hughes has not only created a path for his next steps in higher education, but he has found a community of people who share his same passions.


“It’s great to have a comfort zone where other people are like me,” says Hughes. “It brings people together, and it's what made me break out of my shell…I am confident to say I'm part of Esports. It's a really awesome experience.”


A wide range OLu students have come together and found a place in Lancer Esports, including those from other sports and activities across campus. With the growth the program has seen in a short period of time, King is confident that the OLu gaming community will continue to see Lancer Esports as a place for those who have a strong connection to this rising sport.


“With Esports, the interest is huge and it brings people together that you might not normally bring together,” says King. “Being able to have those who care more about the STEM pathway get to meet and become friends with those on the athletics pathway, there's a lot of really neat crossover. Everyone plays video games, and so for those who want to take it to that next level and meet others who also care that much, it’s a great place.”

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