West Fargo High School eSports Introduces Valorant to their Lineup of Games


Tyger Albano, Editor-in-Chief

During 2020, West Fargo High School saw the launch of the eSport’s club. The organization offered way for West Fargo high schoolers of any age to compete with other teams throughout the nation through video games. During the initial launch of the club, the only two available games to play at the time were “League of Legends” and “Rocket League”. Both games saw incredible traction that year and following years as well. Two full League of Legends teams and a Rocket League team were formed and performed well throughout their seasons. However, video games of the first-person-shooter (FPS) genre were banned from entering the group’s curriculum. 

Mrs. Odum, eSports’ advisor at West Fargo High School, spent years trying to convince the school to allow one certain FPS in “Valorant.” Valorant, released in Summer of 2020, gained instant popularity due to the great reputation of the creator, Riot Games. Riot Games had also created the previously mentioned League of Legends, whose eSports community takes in over 3 million dollars a year in earnings. This year, Odum was able to convince the school board to allow Valorant to be played through West Fargo’s eSports club. “To convince a school to open up and to allow first person shooter (FPS) games in their building is never easy. This was something we knew had to be done in order for the program to grow, so it became more of our focus coming into the 2022-2023 school year. We knew our new vendor, Fenworks, had a lot more to offer in games, so we started conversations with them during their tournament, at the end of March, on how we can change the perceptions out there surrounding FPS games.” Odum said. It took 4 months to convince the school board to allow Valorant, and people such as Superintendent Mr. Williams. 

As Odum said, it was not an easy task to allow Valorant to be played through the eSports club. “For Valorant to happen, we had to demonstrate that there were opportunities our students would be missing out on. Our group attended the NAECAD and Bytespeed conference, at NDSU, at the end of October where we were able to have conversations with coaches on what they are looking for in their programs, and where those opportunities would be at the college level. This was also an event I was a speaker at, so meeting with our partners at Bytespeed, along with other community and university leaders, virtually, during planning, really helped us see and shape the conversations being covered over the conference. This was something we also invited our leadership team to, so they could learn about Esports and what is available to our kids in our local area. While here, we were fortunate to have college coaches write letters on why this program is important to the futures of high school players. Dickinson State took a collegiate title in Valorant during their season and were already recruiting for next year, with scholarship offerings. Having these voices behind us, partners, colleges, and advocates, really helped us in getting forward momentum on why FPS games needed to be offered in high school.” Said Odum. One of her main goals was to be able to get the current seniors in the club to play. Odum took advantage of interesting ways to persuade the school board. “I presented to the district leaders the value of this program, including how profile of a graduate ties into every aspect of who we are. In understanding the value and opportunities out there for our players, my main priority was making it available to this year’s seniors.” On December 20th, Odum finally got the green light to play Valorant. Following the announcement, Odum and the team instantly notified the district as well as parents in order to, “disprove a stereotype that is often associated, unjustly, to violence in schools.” This worked, as no controversy has sparked through the message.  

“My goal is getting scholarships for my students and being able to check this box just kicked the door open on what we can do with this program in the future.” 

Zach Onsum, a veteran member of the WFHS eSports club and part of the Valorant team, thinks the new addition of the game shines a positive light in the world of FPS. “It helps bring in new players to the eSports team and expands the program. Valorant joining the list opens up the scene for more shooters like Overwatch and Apex.” 

Like Odum, Onsum thinks that Valorant helps improve other areas of his life, specifically the dispositions of the Profile of a Graduate mentioned earlier. “The benefit I get from Valorant is critical thinking and communication, with how the matches play out, players are forced to make crucial decisions that require much thought. Finding good trades, getting your team on site, and taking 1v1’s is just some of the many examples.” Onsum said. “Communication is the stape for making a 5v5 work, and it is what makes an alright team to something much more.” 

Mrs. Odum wants newcomers not to fear joining the WFHS eSports organization. “Firstly, we are very fortunate to be given the opportunity to play games we love in a competitive way. Secondly, we’re proud to say you can join because of who you are as a person; gender, gender identity, special needs, athletic or not, everyone has the opportunity to play in my program. We also have two former players that can help you learn. I’m very fortunate in them returning, after graduating last year, to take on a coaching role.” Odum says “Their love for what we’re creating makes all the hard work that goes into the program mean so much more than I ever thought it would. We want the players that want to grow as individuals, form bonds with their teammates, and overall, find a place in their high school career where they feel like they belong. We run a tight ship, eligibility matters, but we’ll help support you to get you where you need to be and try and find opportunities to a brighter future to those willing to put in the work. The students are what make this program what it is, and I am truly grateful to the kids in my program, and those that are not and help out because they are wonderful people, that have worked so hard to help make us what we are today.”