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  • Writer's pictureHigh School Esports League

Building a Legacy Vol. 1: Adlai E. Stevenson High School

Updated: Apr 2

Author: David Stone, Commissioner of Competition

Did you know of the longest-running scholastic esports programs in the High School Esports League hails from Lincolnshire, Illinois? The AESHS Patriots have been competing (and winning!) since September of 2017, over 6 years ago! As recent as 2023, AESHS has seen notable finishes in HSEL competitions such as their 2nd place finish in CS:GO Nationals 2023 and their Runner-Up placement in the VALORANT Fall 23 Premier season, earning a ticket to HSEL Nationals 2024 live in Kansas City for their efforts. This year, with the Spring season ramping up, I asked head coach and literature enthusiast Jim Barnabee a few questions to learn more about the story of the AESHS Patriots.

Jim Barnabee, Coach of AESHS Patriots

What is your esports programs' origin story?

About 8 years ago a group of boys found out I played League of Legends. I volunteered my time helping them play through some tournaments. From there we exploded over the next two years to over 70 students.

Did you have to overcome any challenges to get your program off the ground?

Surprisingly not, mostly technology. My school is very supportive, and I'm a veteran teacher and veteran part of student activities, so my activities director trusts me, and the school trusts our decisions. The biggest challenge was the Macs at our school. We are an apple school and we were struggling to support kids. We now have a bank of Razers dedicated to our club!

What has been the highlight of your school's competitive journey in HSEL thus far?

There have been a lot, but there is a lot of excitement right now over going to finals for VALORANT and Brawhalla. We've expanded to create a "women of esports" component for our club, and I love that. And, in general, I do love watching their games.

What are you most looking forward to this spring season?

I'm a League [of Legends] guy, so I love supporting my League team. I enjoy seeing younger students grow to be leaders. We have teams across three platforms in multiple games so I just look forward to kids growing and competing.

Do you have any advice for fellow peers who are leading--or looking to lead--their school's esports program?

I can think of three very specific things that have made my program work well:

  1. We have a waiver parents sign that deals with the varied ratings of games, shooters, and student use of Discord, which was key for our administration.

  2. Cultivate captains of teams. Make them executive board, and give them responsibility and you can rely on them a lot for queueing up on time, team practices, etc.

  3. Make it more than about the games. Bring teams in to do team building practice, to talk about communication skills, to go over macro vs technical play etc. You don't have to be an expert in a game to do this, it's basically just communication and facilitating what the kids know.

The AESHS Patriots Rocket League team in action at the Illinois HS Sports Association Sectionals tournament, which the school hosts.
The AESHS Patriots Rocket League team in action at the Illinois HS Sports Association Sectionals tournament, which the school hosts.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School 1 of only 4 schools in the entire nation with a roster or player in all three Spring 2024 Premier titles: Brawlhalla, Rocket League, and VALORANT. From now until the culmination of HSEL Nationals 2024 in June, the the AESHS Patriots are set on continuing to prove themselves among the nations greatest and rise to the top of the pack.

David Stone

Commissioner of Competition

HSEL, MSEL, & Youth Winner's Circle

"In esports, I found my community AND my competitive spirit. I’m so thankful for the privilege I had in school where I was able to explore my musical passion, and I want to play a role providing that same opportunity to the students now, tomorrow, and forever. I want to give students a reason to come to school, just like I had."


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