NAECAD Interview: Brian Morris, Oklahoma Scholastic Esports

January 5, 2022

Brian Morris, the founder of Oklahoma Scholastic Esports, Canute Esports and Director of Technology, sits down with NAECAD to discuss esports in Oklahoma and the opportunities they can bring to the community.

What is the Current State of Oklahoma Scholastic Esports?

Brian Morris: The current state is a little varied. It starts with some schools having the equipment, some schools not having equipment. In terms of our current state, it's definitely on the progressive side. We are seeing more and more progress made in esports daily. Which is fantastic. We see some huge strides being made.

When we started two years ago, it was not like that. It began with convos and research. It was kind of a fly-by-night kind of thing. For us, the big thing was making that first connection with a school district and getting everyone on board with it and running with it.  

Overall, I feel that the state of Oklahoma is picking up esports quickly. However, in the next few years, we will have to make the decision in the next few years, what is working, what is not working, and how can we continue this. That conversation will have to happen all across the state in terms of our student's successes, opportunities, and futures. If we don’t, then we will fall behind.

How is Oklahoma Scholastic Esports educating its member schools about the benefits and opportunities of esports?

Brian Morris: What we typically do when we have a school involved, we explain the benefits of esports and how it can help their school district. One of the biggest things we pride ourselves in is academics. We have a code of conduct that goes along with our league, and all of our member schools follow.

We also tell them that esports is not just video gaming; it is a whole industry. There is much more to it. We encourage new schools to reach out to the student population to see what they offer.

We try to teach many different aspects of our member schools and even non-members. Coding goes into this, the video game design, the photography; there is so much more to it.

What are Some of the Challenges You've Faced Running Oklahoma Scholastic Esports, and What were the Key Takeaways?

Brian Morris: The challenge for me has always been time. I never feel like I have enough time. I typically wake up at 7 in the morning and don't go to bed until two the following day. It’s always because I’m trying to find ways to get my students involved. I'm trying to figure out how to provide future careers and opportunities for my students. I want to be able to help them with anything that they have going, infact, I spent an entire day away from our district to take some of my students on a scholarship tour.

I’m always trying to figure out a way to find what's next, what’s next for esports. How can I make it better? Not only for my students here but for all students across Oklahoma! That has been a challenge. There are days where it feels like I don't have enough of myself to go around. However, it is a wonderful process, and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world! Esports is rewarding; it really is rewarding. I have seen growth in our students, growth in our league, and a lot of inclusivity. The schools participating have given their students new opportunities outside of traditional career and collegiate paths.
Outside the time constraint, the biggest takeaway is just the fact that I can help as many students as possible.

What advice do you have for other state esports associations building and connecting with their communities?

Brian Morris: The biggest thing I could say is, regardless of the state you’re in, work with your communities that are already doing esports. Some states will not talk to the people already doing this and will make those decisions elsewhere.

The biggest thing I can say is, take the time to research what is going on in your state, talk to those communities, and see what they are doing and how they are offering it. Also take the time to see if they are really helping the students or not.

If you're going to be a successful organization, your focus, especially in the K-12 sector, needs to be helping other programs and their students. You can do this by building your community for your students. Be sure to also take coach feedback seriously and provide them away to communicate that effectively. Another way that you can champion esports in your state is by working with those communities to build rules and regulations for your programs.  That will be the biggest challenge though, is to get everyone including the big players on the same page, but if you can, your association will be extremely successful. That is the big thing–getting everybody, all the big players, on the same page.

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