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  • Writer's pictureHigh School Esports League

Building a Legacy Vol. 7: Herriman High

Author: David Stone, Commissioner of Competition


Before we dive in, take about 30 seconds to think about locations around the U.S. you would consider "esports hubs". Maybe Dallas, TX or Los Angeles, CA came to mind? In truth, the spirit and passion that is involved in creating a culture around esports can come from anywhere. That's why this week, we're turning our attention to the west. Thirty minutes south of Salt Lake City, Utah lies Herriman High School, where head coach Brian Burke and a small group of passionate students are molding the future of Herriman esports and in extension, the rest of the Jordan School District. Since joining the High School Esports League in 2019, the Herriman Mustangs have seen their fair share of success. This school year, that success was taken to an entirely new level when their star Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player "Okie" won the Fall 23 Pacific conference and cemented a spot at HSEL Nationals 2024 live in Kansas City. Their Rocket League team also celebrated tremendous achievements, placing 3rd in the Premier league and 2nd in the larger 2v2 competition. Herriman esports is defined not just the drive to be the best, but also the love of gaming and the community that can be grown out of "just playing video games". Below you will find insight from the head coach of the Herriman Mustangs, the man himself: Brian Burke!


The Smash Crews team at Utah State Finals
The Smash Crews team at Utah State Finals

What is your esports programs' origin story?

[Our] Esports and Gaming Club started 2016/17 with a group who wanted to play Smash Brothers. We collected old Wii’s and CRT TVs where we could. Many of the Wii’s had problems with drives, etc. so we had a student who home brewed the games and we played off of USB drives. After a couple of years we had more and more students ask to play online games. We petitioned the principal and district and had parents asking the admin to let us play. We were finally granted permission in 2019 to play [League of Legends, Rocket League, Fortnite and Overwatch. In 2021, the school board and superintendent agreed to allow esports into all high schools in the district with a “Teen” rating. [Additionally] we got our first professional made team jerseys which were a step up from our hand made t-shirts. We were allowed the next season to play on the switch after buying a switch and letting district IT and networking have it for a couple months to test it on the network. [The same year] we were asked to bring our 2019 logo into compliance with the district standard. We still use the old logo where we can as it was designed by students. We now offer 9 games and play in 3 leagues. In 2023 middle schools were granted limited titles on the PC.


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

Challenges included the district allowing Switches on the network with them controlling the network dongle, no other consoles are allowed. We have also had many challenges with streaming and social media guidelines. Getting the school and district to support financially for computers and equipment.

Also trying to get information out there to parents and school administration and district that esports is legitimate and not just playing more video games.



"Okie", HSEL SSBU Pacific Champion and HSEL Nationals 2024 qualifier
HSEL Nationals 24 qualifier "Okie"

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

Highlights have been qualifying Rocket League for the Premier League [in the Fall & Spring], having an SSBU player (Okie) win the 1v1 Pacific division fall and 2nd in Pacific division winter seasons, and [qualifying] for HSEL Nationals. The camaraderie, teamwork and inclusion of students who may not fit in with other clubs and activities at the school [as well as] sharing the success of our students.


What are you most looking forward to this spring season?

A chance for our SSBU player(s) to win the spring season and our Rocket League team to place higher than 3rd in the Premier league.




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

Be open with and get the parents involved. Getting parents on board shows this isn’t just students locking themselves in a room to play more video games. Parents can help with getting an esports program approved. The School Board and Admin will listen more to parents than a teacher or club advisor. Parents can also help with club functions, financial support, etc. We stream our matches so the parents and

family can see the action. Parents are allowed to come to any practice or match to watch as well as have their own attachment to club social media and messaging. Become involved with any esports leagues, coaches organizations, and local/state only leagues or tournaments.


Coach Burke and Redford with the Rocket League Premier roster
Coach Burke and Redford with the Rocket League Premier roster

 

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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