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  • Writer's pictureTyler Infinger

Building The Foundation - Akshay Kondala - Hebron High School


Introducing Akshay Kondala — a dedicated leader for his team and nominee for this year's HSEL MVP!


Nominated for his esports achievements, inclusive mentality, and overwhelming positivity — Kondala serves as a model candidate for the HSEL MVP award.

 

Tyler Infinger:

Thank you for joining us! Let's start with your name, grade, and what got you into gaming.


Akshay Kondala:

I'm Akshay Kondola. I'm a junior. And what got me into gaming was that ever since I was young, my family, friends, and my cousins used to play. It all started with Clash of Clans and then we eventually got computers and whatnot. We got on Minecraft, and it was just like gaming in my free time until one day, I learned about the game Valorant. From then on, it's just history.


Tyler Infinger:

It seems like Minecraft has been the common denominator for the first games among our students! Besides Valorant, do you play any other competitive games?


Akshay Kondala:

So, I like a lot of games besides Minecraft and Valorant. For example, when I was younger, I played a good amount of CSGO and Overwatch, too. So, from then on, I just kept playing those, but I was pretty bad. Like I wasn't good at the games, but then I found out about Valorant. It was the first time that I was naturally good at [a game] from the start. So, Valorant became my focus from that point forward.


Tyler Infinger:

Nice! Let's transition to talking about esports and your school. How do feel about having esports offered at your high school?


Akshay Kondala:

It's honestly a great opportunity because there are a lot of schools that aren't as well funded and whatnot — and our school has a pretty big focus on esports as of now. Every single time I see something about high school esports on the internet, [the comments] are always like, "Oh, I wish they had this at my school." But I'm really glad to be at the base of it. It's an honor to be able to pioneer that for my school and district.



Tyler Infinger:

Yeah! Very well said. So, I want to ask you: What are some things that you feel like you have gained by being on your high school sports team?


Akshay Kondala:

Last year I took a backseat role and learned how to really work well with others. Going into it, I literally knew none of the people on the Valorant team, so it was a pretty good experience being able to work that well together from the get-go and then get over our differences and still end up winning everything that season. But then, this year, I took a more forward leadership role.


Tyler Infinger:

From last year to this year, tell me more about how you transitioned into being more of a leader.


Akshay Kondala

So basically, I organized the scrims and as president of the club, I tried my hardest to get our word out there and get as many people involved as possible. For example, we just created [ an all-girl] roster, which I think is pretty cool. It's a pretty awesome opportunity. And I think it's great that I'm learning all these skills now because it's just going to come in handy in the future.


Tyler Infinger:

Absolutely. Out of curiosity, have you had the chance to read your coach's nomination form?


Akshay Kondala:

I have not. He said he wrote me a letter. I hear it's like a good paragraph, but I didn't ask him.


Tyler Infinger:

Good! For what it's worth, not a single person had read their coach's nominations. Knowing you are not alone, I will give you a spoiler: Your coach only gave you high praise. So, I'd feel good knowing that! Specifically, they mentioned how you were instrumental in the club's inception. Can you describe the experience of building your club to what it is now?


Akshay Kondala:

It's been amazing. Our foundation was obviously like our Valorant team; it's one of the most popular we games we offer. So, we had a bunch of Valorant teams and not many other teams. But our veterans going all the way and winning Nationals within the first year set up a lot of interest revolving around the club at our school. And Hebron is the kind of school where the band kids are considered the cool kids just because of like how talented they are. So, we're accepting of other unorthodox extracurriculars — like esports — and that makes it a really good opportunity. It's been an honor just to watch all the teams grow and develop since like they're winning titles, getting crazy wins against powerhouse schools, and beating top seeds. It's great to see everyone grow from where they started.


Tyler Infinger:

Y'know, it's pretty telling when Hebron High School becomes more or less a household name in our company — so clearly, you're onto something. So, let's jump to something your coach said in their nomination. They describe you as being a leader and that was probably no surprise. Can you tell us about the impact you've made on your team?


Akshay Kondala:

As a leader, I knew I had to take the initiative. I tried my best to cultivate a more competitive culture here. So, I pushed all of our teams to practice more and as much as they like. Obviously, I gave them reasonable breaks because I understand that education is obviously the first priority for most people. I feel like, as a leader, I've cultivated a pretty competitive culture here at Hebron. I think — not to toot my own horn or anything — but I think I play a pretty vital part in the winning culture that we have here at Hebron.



Tyler Infinger:

That makes complete sense. You also don't have to worry about tooting your own horn in any way. I mean, you're up for an award for the most valuable player! Anyway, let's talk about your goals. As a junior, you still have many seasons ahead of you. What kind of goals do you have for your team?


Akshay Kondala:

So obviously, it would be nice to be back-to-back National champions. So that's going to be one of our biggest goals going forward. We also just get better and better every year. I want to set up a good foundation until I leave high school where youth esports can still [develop] into like a big extracurricular.


Akshay Kondala:

Many people look at [esports] and consider it just a hobby. But I think that it's so much more than that because of the work that we put in. So, I want to try and cultivate [an environment] where esports is more accepted. There's kind of a stigma around it. Whenever you tell someone that you're an esports fan, it comes with a little bit of second judgment before they respect you. So, I'm trying to eliminate any kind of negative culture that's associated with esports. I'm also emphasizing getting more minority groups involved. [Girls] think it's a boy's club, but that's absolutely not the case. We're trying to create the same opportunity here because there are girls that like to play the game. We want to make sure that everyone's involved.


Tyler Infinger:

Good! It sounds like you're aiming for Hebron High School to be a very inclusive place. Well, I only have one last question for you — and I want to preface that I've asked every finalist so far — but what would winning this award mean to you?


Akshay Kondala:

It's about the name of the award: the most valuable player. It just shows our district and our community how much esports can actually impact a person's life. As a sophomore, everyone always worries about how they're going to get into college and what's their thing. Esports brought me in and I'm really grateful for it. So, winning the most valuable player award, well, it shows my parents, my family, and my friends that esports is a [valid] extracurricular. And honestly, I'd just be really appreciative because I [experienced] a lot of heartbreak with my team. My MVP also reflects my team's MVP, if you would.


Tyler Infinger:

Yeah, that was perfect. Honestly, I know you have a very solid shot at taking this one home. It would be the perfect icing on top, especially if you all win HSEL Nationals for the second time in a row.


Akshay Kondala:

Yeah, I agree. I'd be honored.


Tyler Infinger:

Cool. Well, that's more or less all the things I had for you. I want to open the floor to you in case you wanted to say anything to wrap up.


Akshay Kondala:

Honestly, I'm just grateful for the opportunity. The High School Esports League is just something else. It's amazing. Like, we're at [tournament] right now, and I'm walking around with my esports jersey, and we're getting recognized everywhere. They're like, "Oh my god, that's Hebron. That is THE Valorant team." And none of that would have ever happened if it wasn't for HSEL being as awesome as it is, so I just want to say thank you to you guys, too.



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