How Jadyn Iinuma & Westridge Turned Heads In California’s High School Esports Arena
With USC Scouts Looking On, Jadyn Iinuma Took Charge And Formed The Westridge Esports Team
The Westridge esports team is onto something special. Spearheaded by Jadyn Iinuma, the California high school has attracted seven players in just its second semester, thanks in large part to Iinuma’s leadership and determination to bring home the bacon in PlayVS Rocket League competition.
“Esports has this really cool opportunity to shine,” she recently told PlayVS. “It’s also a fun way to promote more interest at our all-girls school in gaming and in computer science.”
What started as a casual way to have fun with friends, bond over playlists and keep tabs on the day-to-day lives of her friends quickly took on new meaning whenever Iinuma realized the opportunity to blaze a trail. Competitive esports has traditionally attracted young men to its ranks, but after Westridge school officials approved the formation of an esports team to compete in the California Interscholastic Federation x PlayVS 2020 season, the team knew it happened upon a platform that could be utilized for women’s empowerment.
“Esports quickly became really important to me not only for the competition and to be close with friends, but because I see it as a way to fight for gender equality,” she said. “We have an opportunity to [create more] representation for women and non-binary people in esports, while also creating allies to call out sexism – young people who’ll fight for gender equality while gaming together.”
For Iinuma and her teammates, it’s about being granted equal opportunity as the boys, while being honored for their vigilance in the game. Esports allows for an equal playing field where girls can demand the sort of respect Iinuma and her teammates would like to see encouraged in other aspects of society and life.
But, she admits, simply having female representation in Rocket League isn’t the singular goal for the Westridge team – it’s about improving, learning new skills and defeating the other teams on their schedule.
“It’s been really cool to see how much our team has grown from day one just going over the basics, to then how to drive and how to flip and finally reviewing larger ideas like how to rotate and how to effectively communicate,” she said.
With underclassmen joining the fray, the Westridge squad has doubled since its inception last year. Crucially, they received the support of school officials and the I.T. department early on. And they even scored some regular coaching tips by USC esports coach Joe Jacko, all but ensuring their growth as athletes who understand the importance of practice, communication and technique en route to potentially playing at the college level.
As their Rocket League trio put some matches under their belts, Westridge started marketing the team’s Twitch streams with schoolwide emails in order to create support and spectatorship among teachers and the rest of the student body.
It came as a welcome surprise.
“We had no idea we were going to have our game streamed until the day of! It was really exciting, and we had a moment of being silly and panicking together before the game started,” Iinuma recalled. “Then, while we played, our subs pulled up the stream to relay some of the commentator’s suggestions, which was awesome because our whole team came together to help with our game.”
The Westridge Rocket League Twitch broadcasts have also been a welcome social activity for students during the covid-19 pandemic, all but assuring school spirit will remain alive and well until classrooms reopen.
“We cheer when one of our teammates scores,” Iinuma said, “we encourage each other when we lose, and we make each other laugh each and every time we play.”