Video games are not a sport in a traditional sense, however esports is new type of activity that brings high school students from across the country together to develop team building skills, communication, as well as coordination; and it is now an official varsity sport at Floyd County Schools.
Esports already has a presence in Georgia with a league founded in Dalton as well as several in the Atlanta area. Craig Ellison, the executive director of technology and media services at Floyd County Schools, said this new sport is sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association and will allow teams from across the state to play each other without leaving their school.
“With this being a new electronic sport you don't have to be on the same physical field,” Ellison said. “You can be on a virtual team.”
This co-ed sport has 23 boy and two girl students participating from Pepperell, Coosa, Armuchee and Model. The team will begin practice at the Floyd County College and Career Academy after fall break ends. Dr. Lee Green, the digital innovation design teacher Floyd County Schools, will be their coach. As of right now, there will only be one team representing Floyd County, however as student involvement grows it will create the opportunity to create a esport team for each high school in the county.
The students will use cloud based video games on Macintosh computers in the computer lab to compete. When it comes to competitions however, only five are allowed to compete at a time as a team against other schools just like other sports said Ellison.
“We want to win and be the the first state champions ever in esports,” he said. “We’re gonna try and win the whole thing.”
The only GHSA approved game at the time is League of Legends, which is a fantasy based online arena multiplayer developed by Riot Games. The Floyd County team has their first match on October 30, although it has not yet been announced who they will be competing against. A new stadium doesn’t need to be built, or a new swimming pool, the only requirements are the kids, internet and computers said Ellison. He hopes these events will draw crowds of parents and friends who want to watch their friends and family play. Ellison also wants to see students do well with this and encourage those who have a passion for digital media to potentially follow this sport to college.
“Kids are more likely to graduate and stay out of trouble if they are involved in any organized sport, bands or a club,” Ellison said. “This is another great opportunity to help a kid succeed.”
Although new to the area, esports has been growing in popularity worldwide, it is an NCAA sport and there are even televised world championships. It is a 1.5 billion dollar industry according to Ellison, and this national high school organization awards scholarships to gifted athletes just like in traditional sports. Students will also be able to earn a varsity letter for esports.