Welcome New Coaches

Prospective Esports Coaches,

As the Head Coach of Toombs County Bulldogs Esports, I understand the challenges and excitement that come with establishing a new program. My journey began with a passion for gaming and a desire to provide students with a platform to excel in the digital arena. From recruiting players to developing practice strategies, every step has been a learning experience, and I’m eager to share my insights to help you navigate your own coaching journey.

Establishing Toombs County Bulldogs Esports has been a rewarding endeavor, but it hasn’t come without its obstacles. From securing resources and building infrastructure to earning the trust and support of school administrators and parents, I’ve faced numerous challenges along the way. However, through perseverance, dedication, and a commitment to excellence, we’ve built a thriving esports program that continues to inspire and empower our students.

My goal is to provide you with the guidance and support you need to overcome the hurdles of starting your own esports program. Whether you’re a seasoned coach or a newcomer to the world of esports, I’m here to share my experiences, offer practical advice, and foster a community where we can learn and grow together. Together, we can elevate the standard of coaching in esports and provide students with opportunities to thrive both in and out of the game.

Sincerely,
Tyler Corley
Head Coach, Toombs County Bulldogs Esports

Understanding Esports In Georgia High Schools

A. Growth and Popularity of High School Esports in Georgia:

Esports has experienced remarkable growth and popularity in Georgia high schools in recent years. With the rise of competitive gaming culture and the increasing recognition of esports as a legitimate activity, more students are participating in esports teams and competitions. The enthusiasm for esports extends beyond traditional sports, attracting a diverse range of students who share a passion for gaming and competition.

B. Overview of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA):

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) serves as the governing body for high school athletics in the state, including esports. While GHSA oversees various sports and activities, it does not directly manage esports leagues. Instead, GHSA contracts with a private company, PlayVS, to run the esports leagues that they sanction. This partnership ensures that esports competitions adhere to GHSA guidelines and maintain the integrity of high school athletics.

C. Recognition of Esports as an Official Varsity Sport:

Esports has gained official recognition as a varsity sport in Georgia high schools, thanks to the efforts of organizations like GHSA and dedecated coaches from around the state. This recognition signifies the value of esports in fostering teamwork, strategic thinking, and sportsmanship among students. Esports teams are now an integral part of the high school experience, offering students opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and camaraderie.

It’s important to note that all esports activities in Georgia high schools must be conducted at the varsity level through the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) if your school is a GHSA member. Any esports clubs or non-affiliated teams at GHSA schools could result in a fine for your athletic department. By following GHSA guidelines and participating in sanctioned varsity esports programs through PlayVS, schools can ensure compliance with regulations and provide students with a safe and structured environment to pursue their passion for gaming.

Getting Started: Establishing Your Team

A. School Administration Approval and Support:

The first step in establishing your esports team is to approach your school’s athletic department or athletic director. As esports is recognized as a varsity level sport in the state of Georgia, it is crucial to gain approval and support from the athletic department. Discuss your plans for starting an esports team, outline the benefits for students, and address any concerns or questions they may have. Securing official approval from the school administration is essential for legitimizing your team and accessing necessary resources.

B. Recruiting Interested Students:

Once you have obtained approval from the athletic department, the next step is to recruit interested students to join your esports team. Spread the word through announcements, flyers, and social media platforms to attract potential players. Consider hosting informational meetings or tryout sessions to gauge interest and assess the skill levels of prospective team members.

C. Determining Game Selection Based on GHSA Guidelines:

Before selecting games for your esports team, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the guidelines set forth by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). GHSA sanctions specific games for varsity-level competition, and it’s essential to adhere to these guidelines to ensure compliance and eligibility for participation in sanctioned leagues. Consult GHSA regulations and consider factors such as game popularity, student interest, and availability of resources when determining game selection. Currently, GHSA-sanctioned games include League of Legends, Madden, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 3. Hearthstone is offered as a Non-GHSA Regional League title but is still approved by the GHSA for play in Georgia high schools. 

D. Securing Necessary Equipment and Resources:

Securing necessary equipment and resources is vital for the success of your esports team. Work with your school administration and athletic department to identify funding sources and allocate a budget for equipment purchases, such as gaming consoles, computers, monitors, peripherals, and software licenses. PlayVS, through some of their partnerships with developers, may be able to help you with some of your software needs though this is not guaranteed. Explore partnerships with local businesses or seek sponsorships to offset costs and enhance resources for your team. Additionally, consider the logistics of practice and competition venues, ensuring access to suitable gaming spaces and internet connectivity.

Navigating the Traditional Sports-Centric World of High School Athletic Departments

Entering the realm of high school athletics to establish an esports team can feel like stepping into uncharted territory, especially in environments where traditional sports reign supreme. Athletic directors and administrators, accustomed to the structure and culture of mainstream sports, may greet the idea of esports with skepticism or indifference. However, with thoughtful strategy and effective communication, coaches can successfully navigate this landscape and garner support for their esports programs.

Understanding the Mindset:

It’s essential to recognize that many athletic directors and administrators may be unfamiliar with esports and its significance within the realm of high school athletics. They may not grasp the potential benefits or opportunities that esports can offer to students. As a prospective esports coach, it’s crucial to approach these individuals with patience, empathy, and a willingness to educate.

Articulating the Value Proposition:

To gain support for esports within a traditional sports-centric athletic department, coaches must effectively articulate the value proposition of esports. Highlighting the benefits of esports in terms familiar to athletic directors, such as teamwork, leadership development, and student engagement, can help bridge the gap between traditional and emerging sports. Emphasize the parallels between esports and traditional athletics, showcasing how skills honed in gaming, such as strategic thinking and communication, are transferable to other areas of life.

Demonstrating Relevance and Demand:

Presenting data and evidence of the growing popularity and relevance of esports can bolster your case with athletic directors. Share statistics on the rise of esports viewership, the increasing number of collegiate esports programs, and the availability of esports scholarships. Additionally, demonstrate the demand for esports among students by conducting surveys or hosting informational sessions to gauge interest and support.

Offering Flexibility and Adaptability:

Recognizing that change can be met with resistance, coaches should approach discussions with athletic directors with a spirit of flexibility and adaptability. Propose pilot programs or trial periods to demonstrate the viability and success of esports within the athletic department. Be open to feedback and willing to collaborate on finding solutions that address any concerns or challenges that may arise.

Building Relationships and Allies:

Cultivating relationships with key stakeholders within the athletic department, such as assistant athletic directors, coaches of traditional sports teams, and booster club members, can be instrumental in gaining support for esports. Engage in open dialogue, invite stakeholders to observe esports practices or competitions, and foster a sense of camaraderie and unity within the athletic community.

This map shows every school we’ve ever played in an esports match since we started in the Fall of 2020. As you can see, we’ve played teams from all over the country and even a few in Canada. One thing to consider when trying to convince traditional ports-minded people about the value of esports is that you can play people they never could because you don’t have to travel there. This is a huge marketing opportunity and they usually think this is cool. 

Dealing with System-Level Technology Personnel

In the world of esports, getting your Technology Department on board with your initiatives is of vital importance. Unlike traditional sports, where the field is physical and tangible, esports play out in virtual environments, heavily reliant on technology infrastructure. Therefore, the collaboration and support of system-level technology personnel are crucial for the success of esports programs in high schools.

Understanding the Challenges:

System-level technology personnel often face unique challenges when it comes to integrating esports into existing school infrastructure. Esports requires specific network configurations, security measures, and hardware accommodations that may differ from those needed for other activities. As a result, technology personnel may push back against esports initiatives due to concerns about resource allocation, network security, and logistical complexities.

Navigating Infrastructure and Security Requirements:

Esports programs often require infrastructure and security changes to support gameplay and ensure a smooth experience for players. System-level technology personnel may need to whitelist gaming servers, adjust network settings, and implement firewall exceptions to accommodate esports activities. Additionally, dedicated internet connections may be necessary to support online gaming platforms, such as Nintendo Switch Online. Understanding these requirements and collaborating closely with technology personnel can help streamline the implementation process and address any technical challenges proactively.

Building Healthy Relationships:

Building healthy relationships with system-level technology personnel is key to overcoming barriers and making esports work at your school. Approach technology personnel with respect, empathy, and a willingness to understand their concerns and constraints. Communicate the benefits of esports in terms of student engagement, skill development, and academic enrichment, emphasizing the value it brings to the school community as a whole. Invite technology personnel to participate in planning meetings, provide them with opportunities to voice their opinions and expertise, and seek their input on technical decisions. By fostering open communication and mutual respect, you can build trust and collaboration with technology personnel, paving the way for successful esports implementation.

Emphasizing Collaboration and Support:

Highlight the collaborative nature of esports and the opportunities it presents for interdisciplinary learning and innovation. Encourage technology personnel to view esports as an opportunity to showcase their expertise and contribute to the school’s technological advancement. Provide ongoing support and resources to assist technology personnel in addressing technical challenges and implementing necessary infrastructure changes. Recognize and appreciate their efforts, acknowledging the integral role they play in the success of the esports program.

We’ve had several different setups over the years in our space. Make sure to consult system-level personnel before setting up your esports space so they can insure you have the proper ports and drops. Here are a few pictures of how our room has evolved. 

Starting Small: Building Your Program Gradually

When launching an esports program at your school, it’s perfectly acceptable to start small and gradually expand over time. This approach can be highly effective in laying a solid foundation for future growth and success. By focusing on a manageable number of titles and establishing clear parameters for your program, you can ensure a smooth and sustainable start to your esports journey.

Emphasizing Rocket League as a Starting Point:

Rocket League serves as an excellent starting point for new esports programs due to its accessibility and familiarity. The game combines elements of soccer and vehicular combat, making it easy to understand for those unfamiliar with video games and esports culture. Its straightforward gameplay and intuitive mechanics make it an ideal entry point for students and coaches alike.

Managing Expectations with Clear Parameters:

Before recruiting students to join your esports team, it’s essential to establish clear parameters and expectations for participation. Define practice schedules, competition commitments, and any other requirements upfront to ensure that students understand what they are signing up for. For example, at our school, we hold practices every Monday through Thursday from 2:40 until 5:00, providing a structured framework for student-athletes to follow.

Starting with a Limited Game Selection:

It’s advisable to start with a limited game selection in your first season, focusing on one or two titles that align with your resources and goals. By doing so, you can concentrate your efforts and resources on building expertise and infrastructure for those specific games. In our case, we initially fielded two Rocket League teams in our first season before expanding into other titles in subsequent years. This approach allowed us to ease into the world of esports while maintaining manageable commitments for students and coaches.

Expanding as Your Program Grows:

As your program grows and gains momentum, you can gradually expand your game selection and offerings to accommodate student interest and demand. Keep an eye on emerging trends and opportunities within the esports community, and be open to adapting and evolving your program accordingly. By starting small and building incrementally, you can ensure a sustainable and successful esports program that benefits students and enriches the school community.

Here is our varsity Rocket League team during the first match in Toombs County Bulldogs Esports history in September of 2020. Note the outdated lab computers. It’s ok to start small and build from ground level. 

Here is Rocket League team two on Toombs Esport’s first-ever match day. We may have lost both of these matches but these students and I remember this day fondly. Remember to have fun and enjoy the grind while you build your program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Should I get paid to coach esports?

A: Yes. As a varsity sport in the state of Georgia, all esports coaches should be paid as a coach in accordance with their school system’s policies for coaching stipends.

Q: Can I offer titles not approved by the Georgia High School Association such as Call Of Duty, Apex Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch 2, and Rainbow Six Siege because my kids want them and other High School Esports Leagues offer them?

A: No. In Georgia, if you offer titles not approved by the GHSA at a GHSA-affiliated school and get caught, your athletic department will be fined. You cannot offer titles not approved by the GHSA or join non-GHSA high school leagues.

Q: Can my students play from home if I can’t get my technology department on board with making the necessary changes to make esports work at my school?

A: No. In Georgia, the GHSA does not allow esports athletes to play from home. Because esports is a varsity sport and other varsity sports such as football, baseball, or basketball cannot play from home, esports athletes are also not allowed to do so. Anyone caught playing from home may receive a GHSA fine. Please note that this is not the case in many other states. While you may encounter other schools that play from home, it is not permitted in Georgia.

Q: Can my students enter tournaments for money on the weekends or stream on Twitch for money?

A: As high school athletes in the state of Georgia, students are considered amateurs, and they will lose their eligibility to play if they begin to monetize their skills in the aforementioned ways.

Importance of Marketing Your Team and Streaming Your Games

In the world of high school esports, marketing your team and streaming your games play a crucial role in building interest, engaging the community, and promoting the benefits of esports. Unlike traditional sports, where the rules and dynamics are familiar to many, esports may be unfamiliar territory for some. Therefore, establishing and maintaining a strong social media presence is essential for raising awareness, celebrating achievements, and fostering a sense of community around your esports program.

Why Marketing Matters:

Marketing is not just about promoting your team; it’s about educating your audience and showcasing the value of esports in the high school setting. Many people may not have a firm grasp on what esports is and how it can benefit students. By actively marketing your team through social media platforms, you can demystify esports and highlight its positive impact on student development, teamwork, and academic engagement.

Utilizing Social Media:

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are powerful tools for reaching and engaging your target audience. Create dedicated accounts for your esports team and regularly post updates, highlights, behind-the-scenes content, and player profiles. Use hashtags and tagging relevant accounts to expand your reach and connect with other esports enthusiasts and community members. Encourage your followers to interact with your content by liking, commenting, and sharing, thereby amplifying your message and generating buzz around your team.

Celebrating Victories and Promoting Esports:

Use your social media platforms to celebrate your victories with the community and promote esports in general. Share photos and videos of your team in action, congratulate players on their achievements, and highlight standout performances. Additionally, share articles, videos, and resources that showcase the positive impact of esports on student development, academic performance, and career pathways. By positioning your team as ambassadors for esports, you can help dispel misconceptions and generate interest in this rapidly growing phenomenon.

Understanding the importance of getting published in local media is crucial for new coaches as it catalyzes generating interest in their program and esports within the community. By showcasing the accomplishments and activities of their team, coaches can attract attention from potential players, sponsors, and supporters, thus fostering growth and sustainability. Moreover, appearing in local media lends legitimacy to esports as a competitive endeavor, bridging the gap with more traditional sports like football, basketball, and baseball. However, coaches must also recognize that local media outlets may not always seek them out for coverage. Proactively writing articles and submitting relevant pictures can significantly enhance visibility and credibility. The investment of time and effort in this endeavor is rewarded by the considerable benefits it brings to the program and the broader esports community.

Streaming Your Games:

Livestreaming your games allows parents, alumni, and community members to support your team and stay engaged with your program, even if they cannot attend in person. Platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming offer easy-to-use tools for broadcasting and interacting with viewers in real time. Consider establishing a dedicated streaming schedule and promoting your upcoming matches on social media to attract viewers. Engage with your audience during streams by responding to comments, providing commentary, and creating an immersive viewing experience.

Establishing Your Presence:

For prospective coaches, establishing a social media presence and streaming capabilities for your esports program should be a priority. Create accounts on popular social media platforms and develop a content strategy that aligns with your team’s goals and values. Invest in streaming equipment and software to ensure high-quality broadcasts of your matches. Collaborate with students, parents, and community members to generate excitement and support for your team. By leveraging the power of social media and streaming, you can elevate your esports program and showcase the talents of your student-athletes to a global audience.

Toombs Esports on the front page of the Vidalia Advance-November 2023

Toombs Esports featured in the Toombs County Magazine-Spring 2021

The Canva template we use to announce results on our social media. 

Acknowledgment and Additional Support

While the information provided on this webpage offers valuable insights and guidance for starting a high school esports program in the state of Georgia, it only scratches the surface of the intricacies and challenges associated with this endeavor. As someone who has helped numerous programs across Georgia initiate their esports programs, consulted with athletic directors, and engaged with system technology personnel, I understand the complexities involved in this process.

If you find yourself in need of further assistance, guidance, or support, please do not hesitate to reach out. Whether you have additional questions, concerns, or encounter specific problems along the way, I am here to help. You can contact me directly at tyler.corley@toombs.k12.ga.us, and I will do my best to provide the assistance and resources you need to navigate the journey of establishing and managing your high school esports program.

Starting a high school esports program can be a rewarding and transformative experience for both students and educators alike. With dedication, perseverance, and the right support network in place, you can create a thriving esports program that enriches the school community and provides valuable opportunities for student growth and development.
Good luck on your esports journey, and remember that I am here to support you every step of the way.

Additional Resources