Episode # 50

eSports in School with Travus Houghton & Jacob Baldwin

February 15, 2024

About This Episode

On this episode, Kara and Caryn speak with Travus Houghton & Jacob Baldwin of Claymont City Schools about their growing eSports team and how something as simple as playing video games can teach kids some important life lessons.

Guests

Travus Houghton & Jacob Baldwin

Travus Houghton & Jacob Baldwin

Travus Houghton is an integrated science educator at Claymont High School, bringing five years of dedicated teaching experience to his role. His roots in the community have fostered a profound understanding of the local educational landscape. Alongside his teaching endeavors, Travus has exhibited a keen passion for fostering competitive spirit and digital literacy by coaching esports at Claymont High School for the past five years. His commitment to merging academics and technology has made a remarkable impact on students, bridging the gap between traditional education and modern interests.

With over eight years of dedicated service in career technical education, Jacob Baldwin is an educator shaping the minds of tomorrow. His expertise spans a diverse array of subjects, including web design, video editing, and information technology encompassing computer basics, programming, and computer science. Through his innovative teaching methodologies, Jacob has empowered students to grasp the complexities of modern technology, nurturing their skills and passion in the digital realm. His commitment to bridging technical education with real-world applications has led to his interest and involvement in the esports program at Claymont Schools. He has inspired countless individuals to find their place within an academic setting.

Transcript

[00:00:00]

Caryn: Today, we’re talking to Travis Houghton and Jacob Baldwin, who are the coaches for the Claremont e sports team. Hi guys. How are you today?

Travus: Good.

Caryn: Awesome. At the end of a school day, we understand we’ve been there. For sure. All right. Well, we are so excited to talk to you guys today. So we always start all of our episodes off by asking our guests about their journey into education and how you ended up where you are now.

So whoever wants to go first.

Jacob: Can I go first? Yeah. Take it away. So like, I don’t know, throughout high school, my job, like when they would ask me like careers and stuff was either like computers. Or it [00:01:00] was to do something with education and like it came down to it. I graduated 2006 and the big question I like had to answer was like, do I just want to get locked away kind of in a room all by myself all day or like interact with people?

And I went to education and I stumbled my way around and finding a job is really, really hard. So about three years applying for jobs and substitute teaching, I ended up doing computers and technology at the school I graduated from. So like I do web design, video editing computer programming and information technology, which is like computer basics.

So like my college degree is middle school math and science, but I kind of stumbled my way into career technical digital media is where I’m at now. So like it’s jobs and. Anything creating on the computer. So graphics, videos, websites, [00:02:00] things like that. Very cool.

Kara: Okay, Travis?

Travus: I, I actually graduated in 2006 as well from the rival school to this, this school.

Oh, really? Yeah. How funny is that? And so I did not want to go into education at first. I actually was going into criminal justice. And then I switched my degree to an English degree, and then I switched my degree to a science degree, and then I just stopped doing college for a long time, and I didn’t get back into college until about, say, about 10 years ago and then I got my degree in integrated science over at the high school.

I’ve always had a passion for sciences, like every science, and I’ve always wanted to help people. That’s why I wanted to go into criminal justice. And then I figured, well, why not just kind of blend both of those things and help people. Early in their life, help them make those decisions so they don’t have to deal with law enforcement, sciences and just kind of help push kids into, you know, being better critical thinkers.

And that’s just kind of what kind of fell into teaching. I didn’t [00:03:00] really start off wanting to get into it, but I think it’s a perfect fit. Yeah.

Kara: Well, it sounds like it. Yeah. Helping people. And yeah. So what sparked you guys to want to start an e sports program? Like how did that come

Travus: about? Let’s say before, I think the year before I started, they

Jacob: talked about it before you got here.

I don’t even know. It was just kind of dropped into my lap. There’s not very many young adult men, I’d say like late 20s, but I’m not there anymore. Who like relate and do the video game things with the kids. Like you, you would think there’s lots of guys that are into it, but not really. At the high school level you have a lot of You have a lot of social studies teachers and like football coaches and you don’t have very many.

One of the big things I like coming into education is, is like my educational philosophy. I wrote a paper on it. It’s like, be the person you needed when you were in school. And that’s kind of the thing that I come back to [00:04:00] with stuff like e sports. It’s like, Hey, having an e sports program would have been nice when I, when I was in school.

So like making the school that I graduated from better for the. The kids in my own, like, cause I live here, my community and the place I grew up making it better for those guys than it was when I was here is like one of the big things that I come back to all the time with e sports and my classes and everything in general.

So like, that’s kind of how I took it, even though it was just kind of shoved on me because I’m the guy, like it’s the computer guy and the computer class and stuff like that. Like that’s, that’s how I just fight in my head. It’s like, make it better for. the kids who will be me in like five, 10 years.

Travus: Whenever I was interviewed, that’s whenever they were first starting the actual program. So my first year here was when we first really initiated the e sports program. You know, we worked together. We actually had a couple extra people on hand at that time. But it’s just, [00:05:00] it was, yeah, just like Baldwin said, it’s more like I’m in that demographic of young adult males who likes to play video games.

And I knew what things were. And nobody else did. So I just kind of fell right into something that I had a passion for as well with that.

Kara: I was just curious with, you know, eSports kind of being a draw if there was like, if there were other gaming communities like within the school.

Jacob: The problem is it just comes down to time.

Yeah. With that stuff. Because like, our eSports is an hour every day. Oh wow. The time is hard because we don’t get time during the day for these things at school. So, like, I have, I bring the eSports kids in, they hang out in my room and kind of split off because my room’s adjoined to where we do eSports, like, they’re connected, so.

Like, the eSports, there’s a small group of eSports that sit in there and play their games if they’re passing classes during the middle of the day. [00:06:00] Other than that, time is the biggest thing. We’re trying to do robotics. And we’re in the middle of nowhere, so like when things like this happen, it’s, we have four or five in robotics right now, it’s hard to get things going, like the fact that eSports pulls in like 15 to 20 is impressive to me.

They all need a ride to the middle of some cornfield somewhere. Literally.

Kara: Yeah. Yeah. I understand that. That sounds like where I grew up. My graduating class was 79 and we were the biggest class in the high school. So yeah, I get

Travus: it. We get that. And that’s, that’s this area. You’re very rural, very, very small.

Yeah,

Kara: which has its own charms, but also its own struggles and challenges. So, yeah and I think you guys kind of touched on it, but I was also gonna, I was curious what kind of challenges you have run [00:07:00] into. Okay, first, how many years have you been doing the eSports program? Four or five. Okay, so within those five years, what have been kind of your biggest challenges?

I know you touched on like

Jacob: time. The first big hurdle was the organization itself. So like when I went before he got hired I went to a meeting at the educational service center where a lot of people kind of gathered around and a lot of times within schools some of the ideas that get pitched are wouldn’t it be cool if, and then that’s, that’s the extent of the plan.

And then they give it to somebody else. So there were a lot of what may be cool if people at that meeting. And of those, I would say about a 10th of them from the meeting started the Tuscarawas County e sports league. And it was kind of hobbled. That’s our County with the schools and was kind of hobbled together with like six [00:08:00] local schools.

I want to say, I just made up a number. So

Caryn: we’ll

Jacob: go with that. It kind of happened there, but. The writing, it wasn’t COVID that was in the nail in the coffin. It’s kind of the commitment that is. So like, even without COVID, those wouldn’t still be going. So like, we have like a group on discord with the Tuscarora County e sports and it was dead, like within a year because sticking with it is hard and building a program is hard.

So like after that, the challenge was kind of finding a home. And we ended up with, I think. Esports Ohio, and it’s like Ohio wide instead of the local community, which it’s, it’s harder with that because we don’t have very many schools around. So like. We went to regional competition last year and it was a three hour drive and we had to leave at four in the morning to get there with the kids.

Oh my gosh. Yeah. And like, some [00:09:00] of this stuff, like structure and organization is hard because we don’t have busing, so we just found a way to get them down there. Wow. Oh, wow. Like it was a leave at four in the morning with like five of the kids and get them down to Columbus to get there because the competition, I don’t know whoever’s idea it was.

I think they were from like right across the street. Competition started at like 730. Yeah. Yeah. They’re like, this will be fine. And like our kids didn’t do that great. We lost by about 745 and we’re back on the road home at about like eight. So we made it to regionals. But we made it to regionals and it was a fun trip.

Yeah.

Travus: Yeah.

Caryn: That’s a good

Kara: celebration though. Yeah. Making it to

Jacob: regionals.

Travus: Yeah, I think amongst the six or seven, like, districts that first started the Tuscarawas County eSports League, I think two of us compete in eSports Ohio still.

Jacob: And the rest have just gone

Travus: by the way. Yeah.

Jacob: So maybe they’re still going, but who knows?

And then after that COVID hit, which

Travus: COVID killed our team. Yeah. COVID killed a lot. And [00:10:00] then a lot of that was, you know, most traditional sports weren’t able to practice or do anything, but we, we were, we’re kind of able to. As a matter of fact, we moved our entire e sports lab from the high school to the middle school that year, just because it was closer for students to walk to.

And then there was some backlash in the community kind of in regards to like, you know, why they’re just playing video games, why are they allowed to get together, but we can’t go do basketball. I’m like, it’s a bit of a difference whenever you’re isolated six feet apart still and still being

Jacob: able to play a game.

Six people instead of a giant crowd of people, like, jumping on each other. Because there’s

Travus: What is basketball but that

Jacob: though?

Travus: Maybe we play e sports. I think there’s always that backlash in regards to is e sports a sport? Like, do we, do we accept that as an order? You just go in and play video games.

Jacob: Yeah, we are.

Travus: We are effectively a

Jacob: club because like when you’re, when you’re a [00:11:00] sport, there’s a lot more hoops and like, there’s more detriments than benefits. But

Travus: O. S. H. A. A. is now sponsoring the spring O. E. sports, Ohio competitions.

Jacob: We are, we are, yeah. Yeah. And like, we don’t know if we’re excited about that. Yeah.

Travus: That’s what I was kind of thinking about what we’re going to do about that. So what we do in that

Jacob: scenario. Other than that, the only other detriments working with Awkward high school boys, like they’re hard socially,

Travus: which it’s kind of like one of those things. They’re

Jacob: learning that. It’s the same thing.

Like be the person you want to be. When, whatever I said, I made it up. It’s like the like being the person for the people when you, when you were younger, I was awkward high school boy. You might be surprised to know, but it’s [00:12:00] very much like they’re hard to work with. But I understand, I emphasize, empathize with them, like it’s what I was growing up.

So it’s, and I kind of want to get them to a certain point, but it’s hard. That’s the hardest part for me. Yeah,

Kara: I could see that. And I also, but at the same time too, it’s great that you’ve given them a space to be a part of something. That’s what I think is the coolest about like e sports programs is you, people that wouldn’t necessarily usually be involved in something.

Like kind of seem to find their home.

Jacob: One of my best memories from high school was going to the community center and like playing like halo land parties. Whenever like halo two came out, we all skipped school and played together on like six TVs kind of hobbled together. And that’s kind of what the e sports room and like the environment is.

But instead of like once [00:13:00] a year, it’s.

Kara: How did you get kids Excited or like want to get involved because I know you were saying that there you kind of have to like look under the rocks for them Like are you kind of tracking them down? Like have you already pinpointed kids that you think like ooh, I bet they would be interested or how did you get?

Kids to join the team.

Jacob: I think our kids come in groups. Yeah. So like they’re, they bring their friends. So like our big hit was that it wasn’t because of COVID because I think we could have survived COVID, but it was from the lethargy of the community and like the kids in general, which may have been caused by COVID, but like, I wouldn’t blame COVID and like separations, but that kind of killed the group and like whittled it down to like.

We lost almost everyone. We ended up with like four kids, like three kids coming back out of that. But on the other hand the coming in freshmen, them boys spent a lot of time [00:14:00] sitting around playing video games. So like they came in and like we kind of got rejuvenated with those guys. And they brought friends who brought friends.

And then a couple of kids came into the district and made quick friends because with the other ones. Okay. And like it’s. It builds upon itself. So it’s hard when like the feet get knocked out of it to get back up with it. Right now we’re sitting really good with our coming in freshmen. And they bring in like, it’s, it’s a friend group that usually comes in.

So it’s never like one random, it’s sometimes it’s a random person, but then they get absorbed into the friend group. Usually

Travus: it’s pairs that come

Jacob: in. Like, I think the only one person who kind of came in and then got absorbed was Tanner. Yeah. And then he was, he moved in from like Tennessee. Oh, nice. And then like, he, he quickly, he is in that friend group of esports now, like, those are his friends

Travus: in the community.

It also helps being the computer teacher and the science teacher in a school district. Like, [00:15:00] you tend to get, you know, those, a lot of those kids in your classes. And then I always mention it at the beginning of the year, I talk about it with all my students and then usually we’ll get a couple in there and then they’ll grab somebody and pull

Jacob: them in.

I do like a recruiting, like tomorrow I’m going to be at the middle school doing like a recruiting, it doesn’t matter. Oh, nice. For like my classes, where I preview it for the kids and I have a big old esports standee banner that goes up about six feet that I bring that has a picture of the team and the games we play.

And that usually draws attention to it. Yeah, for sure. And if the middle schoolers think it’s kind of a cool thing, whenever they’re coming in, they’ll come in. We usually do like a beginning of the year, like intro, are you interested thing? And we get about 35, 40, which is about 30 more computers than we have.

So very much, we don’t get too excited about that anymore because they fall off. Once they realize they have to like [00:16:00] do something outside of school, it falls off quick. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Whoever’s left is usually a core friend group. Yeah.

Travus: So middle school used to come around at the end of the year too.

And we’d set up the sports room as well and have a video thing and they. Go around and we’d have them like, Hey, come play fortnight. Can we run a fortnight real quick for five, 10 minutes and then bounce out. And then that’s like, Oh yeah, I remember playing fortnight at high school.

I guess we’ve kind of talked about benefits, but like, have you seen any unexpected great things that have come from this program or [00:17:00] with.

Kara: An individual student in particular or what, what’s kind of something, I guess, that surprised you?

Travus: I had a really cool experience. We had a kid a couple of years ago who I want to say started the year off with a little bit of an anger problem. And throughout that year, you know, we had kind of talked to him about like, you know, maybe we got to think about how we act whenever we’re playing a game.

And they came up and we’re talking to me like specifically about like, you know, Hey, I realized now I have this issue and I want to try to start working on it. And by the end of the year he had really changed a lot and then he switched schools the next year. So that really sucked. I really liked, I really was waiting for that person to come back and they switched schools.

But like there was a lot of growth with that kid during that year that they were here that was just kind of A breath of fresh air when it comes to, to, to gaming because you have that gamer rage going on and whatnot.

Jacob: I think the only like big benefit, the more like, [00:18:00] it’s not even a school teaching thing, but the biggest benefit I’ve saw that is an unexpected benefit is as we get more burnout and like tired of being there every day.

The kids step up and kind of fill in the leadership roles. So like part of like our thing this year, we’ve barely done anything and the kids basically run it for us. Oh, that’s awesome. Besides, they like to have a bit more fun. Like Mr. Hound hates fun and wants them to just play to win. That’s what he says.

We all care about winning. But that’s the only like problem they have with like the leadership and the control is like that it becomes very much. Gaming club and not the competition. Yes. That so like, leadership has kind of formed on its own without us trying. Gotcha. So like we have Colin, who is like our eSports captain and he will, [00:19:00] I, I have described him as really much like I teach computers.

So a lot of times I have kids do things and it’s a lot of my blood and sweat and their tears to like make anything on the computer. But like Colin is basically like a second set of hands. I can, I can ask him to do anything and he can just go get it done without me. And I don’t have to like get the airplane spoon and like show him how to do every single thing.

He can figure it out without me. And that’s kind of how eSports runs is we don’t have to have like any sort of structure. We can ask Colin to figure it out for us and like he can figure it out for us. And that’s kind of the surprising thing of me. I thought I would be doing a lot more. Of the organization and the setting things up and like, we don’t need to set up the computers anymore at this point.

They just Oh, wow. Yeah. That’s awesome. Like, one day that they’re like, hey, should we install drivers on these computers? And I’m like, yeah, probably like two years ago. [00:20:00] And then they kind of took care of it. Oh my gosh. So like,

Travus: all of our games are updated all the time. They always come in and update it whenever

Jacob: they can.

Update the computers like more than I ever would have time to do. So that’s great. Wow. Yeah, they keep track of it. Like, those guys play Fortnite and stuff on their own time. So like, they’ll come in and they’re like, Hey, there’s a giant Fortnite update. Can we update the computers? And then it just happens.

It happens. The surprising thing is, like, once it gets going, it’s a pretty easy gig. So they basically run it for you. Like, once it, once the ball gets rolling. The big thing that I emphasize is like my role is to find the next person who will replace that person so like Somebody important goes away, they kind of need an understudy, ready to go, take the next guy, and then take the next guy, and then in a perfect world, like, we don’t have to, kind of, do everything.

Yeah.

Travus: Bring it back on the not having fun. No fun. [00:21:00]

Kara: No fun. No fun. No, my favorite comment out

Jacob: of that was I reminded them all that when I was over there. Let’s end the video.

Kara: Was the airplane spoon. I’ve never heard it called that, which, that was hilarious.

Jacob: My kids enjoy that analogy a lot in my life. I love that.

The airplane spoon. I remind them that, like, I teach computers, so, like, I can I can get them the old airplane spoon and like get them through the stuff and I can like put my hand on theirs on the mouse and click the buttons, but they can also just go on the, like they can, I’m not a bright man, so like, I don’t know how to do most of the things that they’re doing on the computer when I assign it, but like, I can go on Google and figure it out.

That’s the career skill.

Caryn: Yeah, that resonates with us.

Jacob: I don’t know. I can’t fix things, but like I can figure it out pretty easy if they develop that skill. I tell my kids, if they develop the skill of troubleshooting and fixing, just [00:22:00] getting things done, that’s useful wherever they go. Like they could go be the greeter at Walmart. But if you’re the greeter at Walmart who can turn back on the The metal detector or make the alarm stop buzzing.

You’re important to the Walmart staff. Like you’re the guy who can just fix things and do anything. And like that comes up a lot.

Kara: You talking about to them, like playing Fortnite and stuff at home and like noticing the updates and different things, I guess that’s what kind of shocks me about them not wanting to do something outside of school, because I’m thinking like they would go home and do that.

Right. But is it just like the. Accessibility of getting to and from kind of a thing.

Jacob: Yeah. And then I think the big thing too is a lot of the, it’s hard because like deep within their souls, they need they need. The socialization, but a lot [00:23:00] of these guys want, because like I was there whenever I was that age, a lot of them get burnout during school from being around the crowd of people all day and like that time alone, I go home and take a nap every day for like an hour, that time alone is Like for an introverted person is very important.

So like, very much like part of e sports is socialization. That’s the hard thing for those guys. It’s like, that’s the challenge working as a team, not just playing. They can play games.

Travus: They’re good at playing games. They are not good at being teammates sometimes. So like

Jacob: when it comes to like team building, we’ve never had more pushback in the world than when we try to get them to be friends with each other.

We have like our, our first year, we made the mistake of. Playing like our big brained idea was to have five separate teams. And then like by year two, we realized it’s like, Hey, no, we are one team [00:24:00] with five segments and we focused on team building kind of a thing. And because like we even thought we’re learning, we got very tribal and so like they kind of all separated out and like.

Got angry with each other like the kids playing super smash bros were too loud for the other ones and like It gets very toxic. It’s like it’s very be that they’re simultaneously They like their group, but they don’t like Assimilating with other like small groups and like trying to get the small groups to kind of motion to one is hard.

Did

Kara: you, okay. Did you guys run into, and maybe you touched on this at the beginning, the whole people being skeptical of the whole e sports idea, how did you kind of overcome or sell it to make it appealing for like the higher, higher ups? I

Travus: think the, the, one of the biggest ways it was kind of easy to [00:25:00] sell.

From what I saw only because it’s such an upcoming field, like it’s, it’s going to happen. It is, which is going to be everywhere. And so Claremont wanted to get their foot in the pool before anybody else did. And, and we, I would say we’re, we were very successful in that compared to the other schools in the district, as there’s, again, only like a couple of us in the whole, like ESC area that are actually competing statewide, whenever we compete, we compete all across the state from our school.

When it comes to like parents and adults and even students, there’s tons of pushback about, you know, you’re just playing video games, you’re not competing. And I think we just kind of turn

Jacob: away from that. I think one of the things to like shout out Beth Lent for everything that our technology director, Mrs.

Lent is the entire like concept from the ESC was kind of like she pushed it hard. I wouldn’t have done this on my own. [00:26:00] I’m kind of the, wouldn’t it be good. Cool. If kind of like it falls to me, but like I wouldn’t have started it on my own. Cause I would have thought there’d be more pushback, but the lady who I would have thought the pushback would have came from is the lady who started the ball rolling.

So. The fact that she started the ball rolling with it kind of she is the one who could have stopped it and the fact that she started it going is really that she is the only hurdle and that she wanted it to go. So it went. So it was kind of her idea to do it. And I think, and then she’s the one who can make it happen.

So it can all happen after that. And I think community wise, she’s I haven’t seen much pushback. Like, people make their little, like, oh, they’re playing Fortnite jokes, as the kids do every once in a while. And I explain to them that, like, it’s almost no different than, like, any other team sport. We’ve [00:27:00] had nothing but like, I don’t know, like there’s just overwhelming love and support, I think, from the powers to be out here.

Like our football coach, Eric Henry. Never had a problem with him. So like, all the people who could be an actual detriment to e sports very much

Travus: support e sports. We share athletes with other sports, you know, and so like I’ve talked to like baseball coaches over the past few years, like, yeah, you know, if this, they don’t have to come to practice on this day.

If they have a match that day, we get that. That’s fine. So, you know, they were very supportive about sharing that with us. And I thought that was always a great thing too, with that. Yeah, there’s,

Jacob: there’s way more luck and support for resources than there are, like, detrimental people to

Travus: it. Because

Jacob: I think a lot of times, too, like, I don’t know, when, when, deep down, like, if somebody was detrimental to it, like, look at your family, there’s, there’s [00:28:00] one of those kids in there somewhere.

Like, somebody’s nephew is one of those kids. Playing Fortnite. And if you’re going to be awful to the, like, you’re not going to be awful to your own family members. So like everybody’s got, it’s a common thing now. So like everybody knows somebody within their own family, at least I would hope. Or a loved one or a brother or anything like that.

Yeah.

Kara: Well, and I think too, like some of the opportunities that are opening up for people that play e sports, like we had met a girl that got a college scholarship. Yeah. We

Travus: had a lot of our students did

Kara: the college scholarship. That’s awesome. And yeah, we were like, how fantastic. Like they found like their little home and they were able to.

Take it past just high school and

Jacob: we got a scholarship. And then he wasn’t one of our e sports kids because he graduated three years before he started here. It [00:29:00] was Noah, which his little brothers in e sports, he, he went off, Noah went off to college and like joined and was really big in it’s a green college.

I know what is it? But he went off and he was part of his college esports team and it’s been about three times He’s wanted to come in and talk to our kids about like opportunities and something always comes up Before he can make it out here some sort of tragedy, but his family’s really big into this like they yeah, they work with drama Like his mom is really heavily involved with the drama department.

So like,

Travus: so the community has a small history of kind of like eSports being kind of prevalent. Some families, and then again we did the one kid who to get the scholarship for our school and like while he was here as well. So it’s, it is really accepted in

Jacob: Open. Yeah. Like it’s surprisingly way more accepted than I think it, you would think, but also like, I don’t [00:30:00] know, I make sure that we aren’t, the eSports kids don’t like being put up on a pedestal.

So like every pep rally, I’ll tell them, guys, we’re all going to go down there and like stand up in front of everybody and do a dance. And then we don’t. We would hate that. And I would hate that if somebody made me do it. But we try not to like shove it down people’s throats and like force it on them.

So it’s very much on the quiet side, which helps the acceptance of esports. I think if we were touting how amazing Claymon esports was, and if we weren’t bringing everybody up with us. Like I said, I did not like when I mentioned the football thing and even bowling, I don’t knock football because football is not worse than e sports.

It’s the same thing. So like e sports is in no way better than football team. It’s in no way better than a bowling team. They’re similar. They’re basically the [00:31:00] same thing. And it’s. As long as we’re bringing people up, it feels like everybody’s bringing each other up in a way. Yeah. Just a quiet bring up. Mm hmm.

And it’s very much like try to collaborate with everybody.