Keokuk School Board approves E-Sports team at KHS for Fall 2023

KEOKUK, Iowa – The Keokuk School Board approved the addition of esports as a competitive league at the Keokuk High School at the board meeting on July 24, 2023. The Keokuk Community School District (KCSD) would be the first school district in Lee County to offer the popular sport starting in the Fall 2023 semester, according to Zach Summers, the Keokuk high school athletic director.

“It is a trillion-dollar industry, there is no way that we should pass on this option for students,” Scott Gooding, part of proposing the esports program and a KHS literary composition instructor, said. “Iowa having its own [high school] league makes this a unique opportunity.”

Having a specific Iowa league allows only other high school students to be eligible to compete, unlike some states where the public is allowed to compete, including adults, according to the Iowa High School Esports Association (IHSEA).

Gooding and Summers touted esports for opening an avenue for more students to compete in team sports.

Zach Summers (middle left), Keokuk Community School District athletic director, and Scott Gooding, part of putting together the esports program proposal and high school literary composition instructor, explain the benefits of the board approving an esports program at KHS at the Keokuk School Board meeting at the Central Offices in Keokuk on July 24, 2023.

“This is a nice way to pick up some other kids that aren’t musically inclined, artistically inclined, or athletically inclined and have something for them to participate in,” Dr. Kathy Dinger, KCSD superintendent, said.

Summers said he and Gooding met recently with the athletic director from Fairfield, Iowa, to discuss developing a program like Fairfield’s after Gooding had gone to Summers to discuss the possibility of a team earlier in the 2022-23 academic year. Burlington also started a similar program last year.

The KHS team will start by utilizing Nintendo Switch gaming consoles as a cost-effective option, future options include upgrading to PCs through fundraising efforts. Options for fundraising including hosting tournaments for students on weekends, according to Gooding and Summers. The initial games that participants will play are “Mario Kart,” “Smash Bros,” and probably “Overwatch.” The Keokuk team would be on a one-year probation in the league and once that year is up, the program would be eligible to obtain licensing for other games and expand, per the IHSEA.

“I don’t know if there is a kid in the whole school that hasn’t played ‘Mario Kart’ or ‘Smash Bros,’” Gooding said. “Which helps with inclusivity, it won’t discriminate against a student due to their socioeconomic status. All kids play these games, … it can bring all of the kids together.”

There are already more than 90 schools competing in the Iowa league, according to Students who participate at KHS can later practice games that are competed at the collegiate level to prep for playing in college on official teams and qualify to earn scholarships. Millions of dollars in esports scholarships and aid have been awards over the last five years to attend more than 200 colleges universities, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the main governing body for varsity collegiate esports. Esports majors and careers are becoming more common, and include broadcasting, marketing, graphic design, multimedia production, hospitality, coaching, and management. The University of Iowa, Western Illinois University, and Culver-Stockton College are just a few of the area schools that offer esports at the collegiate level.

One of the collegiate-level games include “Rainbow Six Siege,” which is a game based on a novel by Tom Clancy, according to Gooding. Due to some violence, playing this game would require parental permission. Also, Gooding and Summers said that there would be attention paid to healthy gaming habits.

The esports team would practice and compete in a room behind Goodings’ classroom at the high school where the yearbook used to be published before it went entirely digital. The room already has the internet and electrical access needed to compete and is in an easily monitored location, Gooding said. The initial investment will be about $5,000, and grants are the first option to help pay for adding e-sports. Gooding and Summers cited a Walmart grant that is available, as well as many others. They also said that any other items that are needed beyond the initial investment could be easily obtained via fundraising.


–       Esports will be under the umbrella of athletics.

–       Fall, Winter and Spring Seasons, will follow regular sports season with eight weeks of regular season and four additional for post season play.

–       Students can start at the beginning of any season.

–       Co-ed team, any skill level is welcome.

–       Students will be held to the same eligibility standards as all high school athletes.

–       Students will save on fees due to Iowa having a high school level league.

–       Practices are planned for Wednesdays and some Saturdays, to better avoid conflicts with other sport participation.

–       Students will be allowed to join practices anytime, even mid-season, but would have to start a season from the beginning to compete.

–       There will be a varsity and junior varsity teams after the probationary period of one year, there will not be a limit on student involvement to start.

–       None of the games that all players will play have what is cited as “obscene violence,” with no blood shed, Gooding stated.

“This type of competition is taking everything by storm.” Gooding said.

More information on how to join the esports team for the Fall season at KHS will be made available to students by the KCSD as soon as possible.