Esports Teams Take Home Two State Championships
Posted on 01/02/2024
Esports Teams at CIAC Championship

In just its second year as a sport, the East Hartford High School Esports program claimed two state championship titles. After competing at the CIAC State Championships at Quinnipiac University on December 15, both the Mario Kart team and the Super Smash Brothers team returned to East Hartford as champions.

"It feels awesome," East Hartford junior Adriel Rodriguez told NBC Connecticut. "I went into [the championship match] not knowing the outcome and I knew that our team had the skills and I'm so happy that I was proved right." The program is led by EHHS teacher Greg Ziemak who credits this success to the dedication and involvement of the students and coaches.

He said, “It felt incredible. We did work really hard not just this year, not just this season, but the previous seasons as well. So all that time, all that dedication, all those after-hour practices, the reflection and what not, it felt well earned.”

The teams, under the coaching of EHHS Teachers Gregory Hoyt (Mario Kart) and Eric Kaufman (Super Smash Brothers), hold competitive tryouts and train like any other sport.

Kaufman explained players are required to attend regular practices where they sometimes never even touch a controller. They study the game, work out the math behind frame data, are responsible for equipment, and hold themselves to behavior standards as representatives at the school.

“The reason that I’m so proud of them, the thing I wish more people knew, is that Smash is only a medium through which the players develop critical skills. These skills, like leadership, sportsmanship, work ethic, and decisions under pressure, all help build character and set them up for success later in life,” said Kaufman.

As the sport continues to grow around the world, it’s growing at East Hartford High School as well. Next season they plan to add an Overwatch team to the Esports program.

Ziemak said, “Anybody is welcome into the program. As long as you’re dedicated to improving and you have the right mindset, we’d be happy to coach you.”