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  • Writer's pictureHigh School Esports League

Building a Legacy Vol. 2: Hebron High School

Updated: Apr 2

Author: David Stone, Commissioner of Competition

It's a name that over the past few years has become almost synonymous with "victory". The Hebron Hawks from Carrollton, Texas smashed into the HSEL scene in 2021 in and capped off a tremendous first year by claiming the VALORANT National Championship in 2022. With a bar set so high, how do you follow that up? If anyone could, it would be Head Coach Jaden Gorham and the rest of the Hawks students. The 2022 - 2023 school year saw Hebron's VALORANT Varsity roster go undefeated in both the Fall and Spring Major seasons, claiming a spot in HSEL Nationals 2023 where they finished 3rd, falling only to the 2 schools that finished above them. The school still claimed a National title in Chess, through the efforts of their star player under the name "nogr8ness".

Last week, I reached out to Jaden and asked him to share the story of Hebron and what advice he has for those in similar positions.

Jaden gets hype. Photo by @TheRogueCora

What is your esports program's origin story?

I was a fully virtual Chemistry teacher during the COVID year (2020-2021), so I was simply trying to relate to students that were almost certainly turning on my lectures and then proceeding to immediately rollover to continue their Netflix binging. I told my students that I had played League of Legends for years and that gaming was one of my pastimes. One student messaged me that he had a friend in a neighboring school that competed in League of Legends for his school and was wondering if we could do something similar. At the time, I didn't know a singular thing about high school esports and did a bit of research online... I discovered that it was BLOWING UP and told the kid 'We aren't going to stop at just League of Legends'. We started with League of Legends and Rocket League that Spring semester, and I used the remote format of our schooling to advertise to our students to still be involved with their campus from the comfort and safety of their home. We hit close to fifty competing students in the first semester with 6 League of Legends rosters and 3 Rocket League rosters. Then, Valorant was released... and we all know how that went with Hebron... We won Nationals our first year which launched our program to new heights. We hit a triple-digit number of students involved and had a need to conduct tryouts for each game we competed in. We are now amongst the largest programs on our campus and are a huge part of our campus's culture.

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

I will ALWAYS sing the praises of the admin on my own campus. Dr. Boughton and Dr. Zavar are excellent leaders that are gung-ho to try new things and trust their staff to always do what's best for their students. They have only put green lights in front of me. Hebron is a part of a HUGE school district in Texas, but the other schools were slow to join us in the scene. I have run into a number of barriers at the district level for a litany of reasons that have stalled what more the Hebron program could have become in our short time. I could go on for a while about those... a juicy tidbit is that our district paraded our National Championship Valorant team at our district school board meeting on Monday night and subsequently tried to shut down our Valorant program on Tuesday morning. That was a fun conversation. BUT WE'RE STILL HERE. So that tells you how that went.

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

Winning is great, but getting to see my kids have the opportunity to showcase the energy and culture that we have cultivated in an in-person setting was just electric for me. Nationals last year was what the scene is all about. The [overall] highlight of Hebron's competitive journey (not just HSEL) was definitely at TexSEF's Undisputed State Playoffs last year held in Arlington, Texas. We had the most state qualifiers and all of my teams carried themselves in such a positive way. No matter the outcome of a match, my players would always go to their opponents before anything else, dab them up, and tell them what a pleasure it was to play against them. That's the energy that I take the most pride in about our program. It was also amazing to hear whispers when we stepped off the bus from a number of schools saying 'Ooooh that's Hebron! Hebron is here!'. It is the confirmation that what we are doing on our campus is transcending our school's property lines and is having an impact on the scene as a whole.

Hebron players and Head Coach, Jaden Gorham, at the 2023 TexSEF Undisputed State Championship

What are you most looking forward to this spring season?

It's all about making history as a program this spring season. I'd love to be one of the first to have multiple qualifiers for Nationals and to become the first school to have two team qualifiers for the same event (Valorant). I've got a team of seniors in Rocket League that are eager to leave their mark and a JV team of Valorant that is eager to show that Hebron is here to stay even after we have much of our Varsity team graduate this year. No season is safe from Hebron 🙂

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

I think one of the biggest assets that I brought from my own experiences is a life that always included 'traditional' sports. Competition is what drove me as a child, and what separates A LOT of Esports players from that is that they simply haven't had a vehicle to channel that competitive drive through. High School Esports is catering to a demographic of student that hasn't had representation before. I've always tried to mirror the energy that you would find in a Football or Volleyball locker room in my beginning conversations with students/faculty/admin to do two things: get them excited and to acknowledge that we take this seriously. This is what allowed us to quickly become one of the largest programs on campus and to be taken seriously by those outside of the scene. One of the biggest fears that students have regarding Esports is any remaining stigma associated with being involved... but if you acknowledge Esports in the same way as you do other sports, then that stigma is gone and nearly all of the possibility for negative energy is removed. It helps your more shy students to reach out and take a chance.

Another piece of advice is to simply work the network. There are so many teachers/coaches that each face unique barriers based on their own unique district makeups, so, chances are that someone will have input on how to deal with whatever problems you might be facing out of the gate.

Hebron VALORANT celebrates their top 3 HSEL Nationals 2023 finish. Photo by @TheRogueCora

True to form, Hebron's Varsity VALORANT team has already punched their ticket to HSEL Nationals 2024 live in Kansas City at Midwest Fest, going undefeated in the Fall Premier 2023 season, and are looking to add Brawlhalla phenom "Ritzy"--as well as their Varsity Rocket League team--to the list of qualified participants. Even with multiple state, regional, and national titles under their belt, the Hebron Hawks are just getting started. Jaden was kind enough to supply us with this amazing video of the entire school sending off the VALORANT team as they began their travels for HSEL Nationals 2023. LOVE to see the school spirit and support!

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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