Lighting the torch

Since 2017, MCHS has earned recognition for doing what so many teenagers love: playing video games


Betsy Goy

Students sit down after school to play games as a community in the E-Sports club.

Alys Govig, Contributing Writer

From an echoey old computer ‘dungeon’ to a room full of windows and modern tech,  Luis Aguilar took student feedback. With this, he lit his torch and ran with it, creating District 156’s esports competitive scene and community in 2017. Since then, many hurdles were cleared by the olympian; Aguilar, in his first year, expressed he would lead a legacy with this project. 

At only a few years old, MCHS’s esports club has gone through enough changes to render it unrecognizable from its humble, iMac-accompanied kick-off. Aguilar expressed how running esports was never his intention. Instead, it was an opportunity he jumped at: “The students proposed new clubs and wanted to see what could be added … [Assistant principal Greg Eiserman] brought it up to me … so I said sure.” 

Having never led an extracurricular before, esports had its shortcomings in the beginning. Even with a sizable first-year turnout, many opportunities the club promised would not come until 2021, with the school’s new expansion. “I thought it was perfect for me,” Aguilar continued. “I was very relaxed with the club. I just wanted to let people come in and hang out.” As the new year rolled over, his feelings towards the primary culture had shifted.

Time passed, and as 2019 rolled over, Aguilar and his new student government shifted their focus to the potential competitive elements gaming had to offer. “Because our title is ‘esports,’ I became more objectively tasked with competitions,” explained Aguilar, thus creating two sides of the same club: casual and competitive. As a result, McHenry’s first “League of Legends” team competed in 2019, and many more teams formed with the new club room.

In the present day, Aguilar definitely leaves a legacy. Senior Sawyer Shafer, remarks, “This place is very welcoming. Aguilar does what’s best for the club as a whole. Branching out to different esports is something that makes me and the other club members extremely happy for the future.”

Since their first year, Shafer has been an active event planner and student’s voice. They currently compete in three teams (“Super Smash Bros.”, “Mario Kart” and “League of Legends”) and assist in managing two. As seniors, these students’ last year had been spent as mentors for the younger club members, teaching them their techniques on the latest game metas.

With a successful turnout of the past four years under his belt, Aguilar is continuing his development in the club. “Our Smash team [reached] fourth place in the Midwest Region,” he says, “the ultimate goal is to get to that championship… I see all these trophies for football and all the other sports, I want to bring home that first [esports] trophy for the school.”

Although Aguilar succeeds in many areas, the development of esports has not come without faults. One complication is the school’s IT department banning some of the servers required to run the club’s games, rendering the entire club out of order until said problems are handled.

Aguilar continues, “In high school, we need to have a lot of [cyber]security checkpoints, so a lot of those hoops… are in the way of our operations. I get the complaints that the computers are very limited, well, because they’re in a high school.” He explains that these issues are always done in good faith and ultimately out of his control. 

Another issue his club has seen is the lack of student government due to eligibility or availability. Either way, there were many times in esport’s starting years where there was no voice, but Aguilar’s being heard made all the changes. As the extracurricular continues to expand, these instances have always been resolved mindfully.

However, on top of internal conflicts there is an ongoing debate on esports’ competitive nature being considered a ‘sport’ that sparked a response in student-athletes. Aguilar calmly remarked, “I don’t listen to [them] nor do I pay attention to it. I focus on [my members].” After all, the club was founded on its values of self-ambition.

Educators like Aguilar are the construction workers of young minds. They create opportunities and connections between students and give the school a fun meaning after hours. MCHS esports, without a doubt, is leaving a positive impact on its members and MCHS as a whole, now with a community well-surpassing one hundred members and five teams in season this semester.