September/October 2019 - 35

By Lee Goddard, contributing writer
Mark Thompson was unsure how esports would play
out at Thomas County (Georgia) High School. But at his
first meeting as head coach, he saw its appeal. By the time
the season started, he recognized its full value and made a
YouTube video encouraging other schools to add esports.
Esports, or competitive video gaming, is coming off
its first true season as a sanctioned high school activity.
It proved relevant to students who don't participate in
other association-sponsored activities, mixing students
of different interests and backgrounds while building
teamwork. State association leaders said they see
continued growth at the high school level.
" It hit me that these are people who are not involved
in any other activity, " said Thompson, who also coaches
track. " I had several teachers tell me they had students that
wouldn't come to school two or three days a week, and once
they joined esports they came because they didn't want to
miss practice. That said a lot to me. "
The Arkansas Activities Association had 63 schools
and nearly 1,000 students participating just three months
after introducing esports, with the majority not involved
in other sanctioned activities, said assistant executive
director Derek Walter. The Alabama High School
Athletic Association (AHSAA) had 400 students engaged
this spring, with about 360 never before involved in an
AHSAA activity. Thompson, who at one point fielded the
largest esports team in the country,
said only three of his 62 gamers
participated in athletics.
" We want to provide more
opportunities, " said Marvin Chou, an
assistant director at the AHSAA. " We
are reaching a group of children who
were, after school, just going home.
They get to be proud of their school,
of their community. They get to work
on team-building with classmates. "
That's not to say all esports
players don't have athletic
backgrounds. State esports
champions from across the country
played football, soccer, baseball,
softball and ran track among others.
Several were involved with clubs.
Still, it was a chance for cliquebusting.
" It
was a pretty cool experience, "
said junior Donny Jones, who
played for Thompson last season.
" I was able to meet a bunch of
friends. I didn't really know anyone
in there because I didn't hang out
with them before. We grew closer,
a lot like a traditional sports team,
but just not athletic. "
Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky,
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launched " Season Zero " last fall, playing League of
Legends on a platform provided by PlayVS. During the
spring, Rocket League and SMITE were added as games.
At the same time Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and
New Mexico picked up esports, as did the Texas Charter
School Academic and Athletic League.
Many schools use existing equipment, minimizing costs.
There's no travel and no referees, saving more money.
The move to sponsor esports at the high school level
was inevitable. The University of California, Irvine fielded
a varsity scholarship team and built a dedicated esports
arena, while several other universities offer club programs.
Esports competitions are broadcast online and can yield big
money. But not everyone believes the time is right to link
esports with state associations.
Mason Mullenioux co-founded the High School Esports
League (HSEL) in 2012. The organization partners
with schools and provides the platform and tournament
administration for club esports with a presence in every
state and Canada, he said.
The HSEL administrated esports tests for a few state
organizations this past spring, and Mullenioux came away
convinced that esports should not yet be state sanctioned.
He felt user numbers were not encouraging when compared
the HSEL's roughly 1,500 clubs and nearly 60,000 users.
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September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September/October 2019

September/October 2019 - 1
September/October 2019 - 2
September/October 2019 - 3
September/October 2019 - 4
September/October 2019 - 5
September/October 2019 - 6
September/October 2019 - 7
September/October 2019 - 8
September/October 2019 - 9
September/October 2019 - 10
September/October 2019 - 11
September/October 2019 - 12
September/October 2019 - 13
September/October 2019 - 14
September/October 2019 - 15
September/October 2019 - 16
September/October 2019 - 17
September/October 2019 - 18
September/October 2019 - 19
September/October 2019 - 20
September/October 2019 - 21
September/October 2019 - 22
September/October 2019 - 23
September/October 2019 - 24
September/October 2019 - 25
September/October 2019 - 26
September/October 2019 - 27
September/October 2019 - 28
September/October 2019 - 29
September/October 2019 - 30
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September/October 2019 - 33
September/October 2019 - 34
September/October 2019 - 35
September/October 2019 - 36
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September/October 2019 - 38
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