The electronic frontier

Coach Richard Allen discusses THS’ newly formed Esports team


Photo by Dakota Dennard

Allen stands in front of artwork in the Esports room designed by Brian Jones.

Story by Phoebe Neff, Editor-in-Chief

Up the elevator of the multipurpose building and just down the hall is something that would’ve been unthinkable to most a few years ago. However, times have changed, and the newly formed Texas High Esports team is a testament to that. Paving the way for the future of THS sports, the Esports team presents many unique opportunities and experiences for its members.

Under Coach Richard Allen’s leadership, the Esports team is growing and preparing for an eventful year. Once practices begin, the team will meet in Room 6 on the second floor of the multipurpose building. Practices will be held Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“It’s competitive video gaming. We don’t focus on maybe more of the most popular games; we focus on the ones that have scholarship opportunities and ways to use your skills and your hobbies to make money and get education after school,” Allen said. “So, it’s set up very much like regular sports. There’s not a lot of hanging around and just playing video games.”

In regards to scholarships and education, Esports is ever-evolving in the many opportunities that it provides. It has become a viable option for many students who are passionate about video gaming to pursue higher education.

“When I first started [coaching Esports], it was a big deal. There were 200 scholarships available. Now, it’s thousands. There’s thousands of scholarships, hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships available,” Allen said. “The people who aren’t athletes at all, this is one of their only opportunities to get scholarships.”

As interest and opportunity grow, it’s being recognized by some as a new and important part of culture, even gaining large stadiums specifically for these events.

“It gets pretty insane. They’ve got actual arenas now that are huge. One of the things I want to do is take my team to Dallas and play in the Arlington arena. They’re building one in Shreveport, and rumors are that they’re trying to get one here in Texarkana,” Allen said. “It’s just growing. It’s [a] multi-billion dollar business. It’s all STEM-based. Everything from tech to putting these computers together to running LANs. I mean, it’s next-level education, you know, when you really think about it.”

Even though this is his first year at Texas High, Allen has been involved in the Esports field for years, showing not only the longevity and prominence of Esports but also the dedication and passion Allen has for it.

“I’ve been teaching for 15 years; I’ve been doing the Esports thing at Liberty Eylau for five years,  so this isn’t new to me,” Allen said. “It was great.  We had a lot of support from [administration] — didn’t have a lot of monetary support, but I had about 30 kids at first and went to the playoffs every year.”

The formation of the team was a perplexing move to some at the school largely because many don’t understand the growing sport. However, it’s nothing new; Esports has a history and has been around for decades. Its recent surge in popularity has only brought much more attention and support.

“I’ve been involved with Esports for about, I guess, 20 years now. I’ve got three children, and they’re all grown up now, but when they were little, I got to play a lot of video games,” Allen said. “At the time, I entered ladder tournaments, and my little team won a couple $1,000 and some video cards [by] playing Rainbow Six Raven Shield [in] ‘99 or 2000, something like that. So I think it’s always been growing, but lately in the last five years, a lot of companies and a lot of people have seen how it’s a moneymaker.”

Despite Esports becoming more renowned and recognized, the events and competitions can be sporadic and uneven. This is dependent upon each state and their schools’ Esports organizations.

“Competitions are kind of weird. Right now, there’s a few states that are organized — like, Texas is voting on Esports to be a real thing and UIL,” Allen said. “There’s a few other states, but we all play together — everybody in the Central Time Zone. So we could play a really big school from Chicago; we can play a little bitty school from Smithville, Ar. We just play all kinds of stuff.”

Once the team is operating, Allen has many activities, events and procedures planned for them.

“​​When we get started, we’ll have certain days of practice this year. We’re just after school, so they’ll show up, we’ll do a game plan for practice. We’ll warm up, maybe [do] some mental exercises, that type of stuff to get us in the right game mind frame,” Allen said. “Then we’ll practice and hopefully set up a scrimmage with another team and improve our skills.”

With many things on the horizon, Allen looks forward to all that he will accomplish with his new team and what the players will gain from it.

“Starting this project has been very exciting for me. Before I was a teacher, I was a salesman. So I love starting new things,” Allen said. “I get to make the decisions. I don’t have to trust somebody else to make sure it’s going to be successful, and the students are so excited.”