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  • Writer's pictureTyler Infinger

Leading By Example - Matthew Biendara - Canyon Ridge High School


Introducing Matthew Biendara — a three-year high school Rocket League captain and nominee for this year's HSEL MVP!


Nominated for his esports achievements, extraordinary leadership, and community involvement — Biendara stands as a prime candidate for HSEL MVP.


 

Tyler Infinger:

Let's start by telling me your name and what got you into gaming.


Matthew Biendara:

So my name is Matthew Biendara. And what got me into gaming, like originally, when I was a little kid, was just playing Wii Sports with my friend or my siblings. And then, for esports, the teacher who's at my former high school was starting up an esports program. My dad worked at the school at the time, and so he was telling me about this thing and how there, you know, there's this competitive esports thing that's happening. I had just stopped playing soccer and had kind of started playing Rocket League. And so I was like, "Oh, esports could be a new avenue for me to compete and be this new thing for me to try out." And so I met with Mr. D. and fell in love with the program, went all in on it, and ended up here.


Tyler Infinger:

Awesome. I will spoil something. I'm not sure you get a chance to see the nomination, but your coach had nothing but high praise to say about you. Your situation is also a little unique in that you've already graduated, but how did you feel about your school offering high school esports as an extracurricular?


Matthew Biendara:

I mean, it's surprising! I didn't initially go to Canyon [Ridge High School]. I transferred because of esports. I wanted to play esports. And so it was this new thing that I was really excited about. And I think it was something that made me feel like I could be part of a group and a community again, which I really didn't feel like I had at the high school that I was at before. And again, it was a way to compete as a way to meet new people. And it was a way to just like have fun doing something that I love.


Tyler Infinger:

Yeah, that was a very unique circumstance. Esports is growing, so we're hoping that stories like yours become more common. How did you hear about esports at Canyon Ridge?


Matthew Biendara:

So before I transferred, my dad worked there as a teacher and he knew that they were starting up esports. They started with the League of Legends team, and then when COVID-19 hit, they tried to expand it because, obviously, they're online, so more people can play. And I got into then talking with Mr. D.; my dad connected the two of us. I got to talking with him and he kind of was giving me the rundown of what he's trying to do and what he's trying to build at Canyon. He was like, "Look, we're trying to expand to different games." I was like, Look, I play Rocket League. I would be totally down if there are players there wanting to play, and I can just fill in some spots, whatever the role. I would love to be able to come over and build something at Canyon." So that was kind of how that all started.


Tyler Infinger:

That's a great story. So your coach praised you for training a couple of new members. They specifically cited that you've been incredibly patient and diligent. Can you tell me a little bit more about this experience?


Matthew Biendara:

Yeah, so it's one of those things where — especially since Canyon is such a small school — we're going to have people of all skill levels and we're probably not going to have the best players. That's just a reality of our situation. And so my goal going in was I want to create a bond and a team that plays well together and has fun together, regardless of how good individually any of us are, because ultimately, none of that will matter if the team itself can't function. So I always come into it with the mindset of I don't care how good you are, what your rank is, how many hours you have. And so when I found people who were just there to get better and improve and just wanted to have fun with it, you know, those are the people that I gravitated towards and those are people that I was lucky enough to coach and to train and to work with. My role was just to get them to be as good as they can be and get this team to have as much fun and enjoyment as possible.


Tyler Infinger:

It sounds like you were fairly successful at that, too! Was training the younger generation a fairly common occurrence for you as captain?


Matthew Biendara:

Pretty much. The first season was the only season where that didn't happen because we were all kind of at the base level. But then, after that season, the other two teammates I had left, so it was like a whole reset. So it became one of those things where it was just my responsibility to coach [new players].


Tyler Infinger:

Yeah, that makes sense. So taking a step back, what are some things that you feel like you have gained by being on a high school esports team?


Matthew Biendara:

Definitely. It was a lot of responsibility, especially this last season. We grew so much, which was fantastic, but it made it so that Mr. D. had a lot more to handle. So essentially, it came to a point where the captain had to be the one scheduling practices, making sure people show up on time, and making sure the team is on the same page. And so it was a lot of responsibility, a lot of time management, a lot of commitment, making sure everyone is on the same page. And ultimately, just figuring out how to get three players to gel together and into the game itself. What playstyle do we need to have? How does everyone fit in? What is everyone's role? So I grew a lot by being in esports and having the role of captain.



Tyler Infinger:

That's great to hear! So far, we've talked pretty broadly about things you gained in esports and about your team as a whole. Can you talk a little bit about some specific moments that you find memorable from being on this team for the past few years?


Matthew Biendara:

Well, there are a couple that stick out to me. Two years ago, when we made the playoffs for the first time, we ended up going up against the number one seed. Going into it, we were under the assumption that this is the number one team, and we don't really stand a chance here. Let's just have fun with it. And in that game, [our] team was just goofing around and having fun. It was this feeling of accomplishment for making the playoffs and was relaxing to just play. And then this last season, there are multiple times I could think of, but one that really stood out to me was one of our series that went the distance. We were down a goal in game seven, but there was this constant feeling of being locked in, and we tied it up with like 6 seconds left and ended up winning it in overtime. That was probably one of the best moments because everything just came together. Everything that we had been practicing and working on, it all came together.


Tyler Infinger:

Phenomenal. So, I only have a couple more questions for you before we wrap up. You've already graduated — so maybe you've already thought about this one — but what kind of legacy did you hope to impart to your team now?


Matthew Biendara:

I want my team to understand the value of putting in hard work, practicing, and getting better. But the biggest thing is that no matter how good you may be or where you're at, if you commit to it, put in all your effort, and truly give it your all, you can be really good at something. That's what we realized in our most recent season, which was probably our best season ever. There were times when my teammates doubted themselves and got frustrated, but as a team, we were able to constantly bring each other up, keep each other level, and maintain confidence. I hope they understand the value of trusting each other, trusting their teammates, and giving it their all, no matter what it looks like.



Tyler Infinger:

Yeah, that is so important. You've told us a lot about your contributions to the team, but I wanted to ask you about the intersection between being on an esports team and your efforts as a creator. Your coach mentioned some of the film passion projects you've produced, and I'm curious about how they may align.


Matthew Biendara:

Yeah, to be completely honest, my esports career probably ends with high school. While I do enjoy it — and I'll still be invested in esports as a whole — playing as a player is done after high school. My true passion is film. I want to be a director, and I'm going to school for that. But with that passion, I know I can blend my esports passion and my film passion together. I wanted to be able to highlight the program, and I love the fact that a video can last longer. Obviously, I might move or relocate, but with these videos, I can show future classes and students what this program can be and the possibilities it holds. The first thing I made was a documentary about the program itself. Recently, I've been creating highlight videos for the team, and both of those projects were film projects to highlight esports. It was cool for me because I was passionate about esports and wanted to tell the story. But it was also a new way for me to create something, as I had never made an official documentary before. Making those videos was a perfect opportunity for me. It was so much fun to create them, and in my opinion, they are some of the best videos I've ever produced. So, that's the connection between being on the esports team and my efforts as a creator.


Tyler Infinger:

That's awesome. Film is a great way to foster that sense of community, even after you're gone. Well, I have one last thing to ask — and I want to preface it by saying that I'm asking every finalist for our HSEL MVP. What would winning this award mean to you?


Matthew Biendara:

For me, it would cement the legacy I've had in esports. Let's be honest. I didn't win any trophies or tournaments. We played for fun and as a team. Playing and competing was more than enough for me. Personally, winning this award would be the perfect ending to my esports career and the best way to wrap everything up. And, you know, it's hard to sometimes quantify the effect I've had on my team. But winning this award would solidify in my mind the impact I've had on my teammates and the ability to build something bigger than myself, which is ultimately what I wanted to do.


Tyler Infinger:

Absolutely, very well said. An award like this legitimizes your legacy in a way. So yeah, it makes complete sense. That's pretty much everything I wanted to ask you. Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap up?


Matthew Biendara:

Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you to HSEL as a whole for making the league possible and keeping it running.

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