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The Atoka Invitational

What was the Atoka Invitational?

In the early months of 2022, individuals from Atoka high school along with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma got together and dreamed up an amazing esports event. The event would hold both Overwatch and Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournaments with high school teams from across the state, and be an event of such magnitude that Oklahoma esports had not yet seen before. An arena was dreamt up with 24 PCs and enough room to have multiple matches running at the same time on LAN, with the big screen showing off one game at a time. Thus, the Atoka Invitational was born.


Atoka Invitational merch and prize medallions. Image by Branson Evans


The event was held in early April and consisted of 12 teams for Overwatch and 67 individuals competing in the Smash tournament - it was an amazing turnout, and competition between the teams was intense until the last moment! The event also housed vendors such as FatCap, OATH League, and the AEA as well as representatives from collegiate esports at both Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University to show off their contributions to esports in the state.


Super Smash Bros Ultimate casters at the Invitational. Image by Branson Evans


INTERVIEW

The AEA staff reached out to Brock Woolf, the assistant coach for the Atoka high school Overwatch team about his team’s performance and thoughts about the event. When asked what his players gained from attending the invitational outside of some great competition, Brock said:

“I saw friendships being built between players from across the state that normally have little to no interaction. With an event like this, getting the opportunity for your team to walk out and have fans support and cheer for you is unforgettable and the players will cherish these memories. There were different colleges there that know how amazing esports is already and were there to scout and see some of these students compete. I think as these events keep occurring more colleges will use events like this to scout out up and coming talent.”

And this is true - the flashing lights and smokescreen entrance made the event both super hype and also made the players feel recognized for their skill sets in a non-traditional sport.


We also asked Brock what advice he would give to coaches or players that are new to esports:

“As a coach you are going to have to dive in and learn the lingo, and each game can be, and usually is, different. Your players have a vast understanding of the game that they love. Learn from them and dive into the culture of the game and make good use of YouTube. Every game has tutorials and in depth content that you can use to help your understanding of the game and your teams. Teaching the players how to communicate with one another is huge and allows for not just in-game skill growth, but growth as individual human beings.
As a player you are going to get frustrated and have moments where you feel like you are having trouble getting better, it happens to everyone. Don't give up. Keep giving it all you have, talk to your coach and your teammates because you are a team, you don't have to do it alone. They want to help you just like you want to help them.”

His advice is amazing not only as a coach but as a valuable friend to many, and we agree. Esports may not be a traditional sport, but many of the trials and tribulations you go through are identical. Never give up, even when it is hard, and always try to put yourself in others’ shoes to understand where they are coming from - whether that be your coach or your teammates.


Overwatch Top 3 Trophies at the Invitational. Image by Branson Evans


What is important about the Atoka Invitational?

The Atoka Invitational was one of the best events we have seen yet as individuals who are deeply established in the esports world. It was a fantastic place for high school players to be scouted by collegiate esports and compete in an in-person tournament after the adversity of the past two years. But what was really important is that it was a pioneering event for esports in our state, and hopefully many more events like this can be held in the future.

Likewise, many coaches noted how esports helped their players improve grades and communication with team members - it is not only a hobby, and can in fact change the trajectory of a career or a life.


If you or anyone you know are interested in creating an esports event like this, big or small, reach out to the AEA to get information and resources on how to get involved!


Big thanks to the Choctaw Nation for putting on the event and hosting the event hall. The Atoka Invitational could not have been put on without the amazing Nation or William Bray and his vision.


Special mentions to all coaches and players that came out, the United States Air Force and United States Army, as well as the vendors from FatCap and OATH League, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma University, and the amazing volunteers that put their time and energy into the event. The AEA is grateful to have been a small part of the event’s success, and we hope to continue fostering esports both in Oklahoma and across the entire United States!


Stage A and Stage B lit up. Photo by the AEA.

 
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