Breaking Barriers & Scoring Touchdowns
Peyton Lehigh is Setting the New Standard for the Next Generation of Madden Players
Though Peyton Lehigh from York Academy Regional Charter School in York, Pennsylvania had been playing Madden since she was a kid, when she was initially recruited to her school's esports program it was to help run their social media accounts. Looking to expand the esports program beyond just those competing, Coach Kristopher Hood, who at the time was Peyton’s 8th-grade teacher, was looking for students who could help out in various ways. “Even if you don't play, you can do social media, you can do casting. I mean, there's so many different options.”
For their first year, Peyton focused on promoting the program through social media by creating graphics of upcoming matches and game results and posting them across the esports program’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. Peyton eventually showed some interest in competing but was still hesitant to make the leap. Though she loved playing Madden, it had always been over-friendly games with people like her little brother, never in a competitive setting. Through the encouragement of her coach, Peyton decided to give it a try.
And it turned out to be a very smart move for her to take the jump. Peyton has now gone on to become the dominant Madden player at her school, even above her two male colleagues who are now even too afraid to go up against her. Competing for the first time in the PlayVS Fall 2022 season, Peyton ended the regular season ranked 11th in the Eastern Regional league with a 5-3 match and 11-8 game record and easily clinched a playoff spot. “Funny thing is Peyton wasn't even sure she wanted to play the season just cuz she had a lot going on at school, at home and all that. So she was gonna give it a try this season and now I feel like she's probably in love with it now,” recalls Coach Hood.
Through her run, Peyton has been well aware of the unique experience as one of only a few high school female Madden players. That experience has come with some obstacles that Peyton has had to learn to overcome. She is often questioned about her skills due to her gender. “I feel like nobody believes me when I say that I am good because I'm a girl and it's different from having a boy playing, like they doubt your ability and stuff like that.” Peyton has also experienced opponents quitting matches early when she is ahead after finding out during the match that they are being beaten by a girl. Peyton and her coach are still happy to take the win and don’t allow these moments to affect her performance.
In addition to her hard work and commitment, Peyton attributes her success to her Coach who has been a big asset and helped her through a lot of things. As for her strategy? Even though her favorite NFL team is the Pittsburgh Steelers, Peyton likes to compete with the Buffalo Bills as they are doing pretty well this season and she likes Josh Allen as a quarterback. Her advice to others looking to compete in Madden is to of course practice and if you have somebody at home that you know will play with you, you should as it definitely helps to get you better.
Coach Hood says that Peyton’s commitment to the program has only increased since deciding to compete and she still finds the time to help lead the program’s social media efforts.
As to the future of scholastic esports, Peyton believes that is only going to continue to grow. She knows there are students who still just play at home who are waiting for their school to start a program or don’t know yet that their school has one. She especially hopes to see more girls joining esports in a variety of different ways.