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LoL Athlete Mikinzi Strykul Describes Overcoming Personal Challenges, Making Friends Through H.S. Esports

The Benefits Of Esports Team Play Became Mighty Clear To This Arizona High Schooler

Thom Fain
Oct 07, 2020

Whenever Mikinzi Strykul learned she could combine her love for League of Legends with the discipline of practice, teamwork and better health she was elated. For her, the Willow Canyon High esports team represented a way to connect with other players locally, and make new friends -- but over the course of the season, she found a wellspring of other benefits that helped her find direction in life.

“I really enjoy esports because it gives me a chance to practice a sport with a team when it is difficult normally for me to play any other sport,” she told PlayVS. “My passion for League of Legends was able to be combined with having the support of a team of people who played well and understood me well too.”

Like many high schoolers, Strykul was struggling to find a club or an activity that fit her needs for extracurricular activities, something that leads to higher attendance, aspirations for continuing education beyond high school and the opportunity to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios.

“[The team] has helped me to push myself further to practice new champions and keep practicing to get better for myself and my teammates. I also made some really good friends from my esports team,” she said.

As part of the school’s League of Legends squad, Strykul made a name for herself playing support roles and branching out of her comfort zone. Her favorite champions are Neeko and Nami, who she played as throughout the many in-game moments during PlayVS competition that she credits with nurturing real-life connections. A key to the Willow Canyon team’s success, she says, is its close-knit nature.

“There are a lot of smaller, good memories from last season with my team. Our mid-laner was awesome at turret diving and we all would laugh after his fifth dive,” she said, referring to a play in which the team’s designated attack character drives up the middle of the map to distract the opposition’s turret guns. 

These moments allowed Strykul to relax in school and become more sociable, while learning how to effectively communicate inside a winning culture while breaking through barriers both in-game and in real life. The teen also suggested that her mental health had benefited over the course of the season.

“One time, we were very behind in a match and it did not seem like we had any chance of winning. However, we pulled it through as a team late in the  game and surprised the opposing team by getting a win! We were all very proud of the win and happily celebrated it together,” she recalled.

As her teammates worked for the W’s, Strykul considered the opportunity for scholarships in esports as her dreams for college come closer to reality. The option to continue playing esports in organized team play beyond this season has also impacted which colleges she sees herself fitting into.

“Esports has helped me to become more social and more involved with my future,” said Strykul. “It impacted my choice in college to attend since I wanted to be able to participate in esports in some way. It has helped me to push myself further to practice new champions and keep practicing to get better for myself and my teammates.”

To learn more about how high schools can find a coach and get started making a difference in the classroom, check out our guide to high school esports onboarding.