HOLLISTER, Mo. — In the first year of Hollister’s new esports program, the middle school team took fourth place in the first Annual All-Missouri Middle and High School Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Crew Battle Tournament.
The event was the first competitive tournament for the middle school team. One of the young gamers, Cade Schimon, said the team came out strong.
“Being the only middle school that was left in the tournament and passing other high-schoolers, it was just a great experience overall,” said Schimon.
Schimon said he has dreams of becoming a professional gamer, but his parents don’t fully understand how much money he could make.
To put this into perspective, The International Dota 2 Tournament in 2019 had a prize pool of over $34 million.
“Most of us don’t have technology at home that can run well enough to run most of these games, so it really opened me up to being able to play more, interact with people and have fun,” said Skylar Hove, a junior at Hollister High School.
Dr. Sean Woods is the Assistant Superintendent for Hollister Schools. He has been instrumental in bringing the new esports program, but said he faced some adversity from suspicious parents.
“If it was strictly video gaming, that would be one thing, but the esports programs and the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry,” said Dr. Woods. “Does everything from coding to creative storytelling, to digital design.”
The new program is funded by the Tiger Academy, Hollister School’s afterschool program. With this funding, they were able to hire two coaches, including Holly Neal.
“Maybe they don’t have a place,” said Neal. “They don’t have a sport that they’re into. They don’t have a band talent that they’re really into, but they’re great at gaming, so this gives them that place to do that.”
Neal is passionate about her team finding different scholarship opportunities through local colleges like Drury and Missouri State University.
Nearly 200 US colleges offer around $15 million in scholarships for the esports elite and university teams.