States recognize video gaming as official high school sport

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — New Mexico is joining a number of other states in allowing high schools to officially sponsor varsity Esports. 

At least six other states — Rhode Island, Illinois, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Georgia — allow students to compete in Esports as an official high school varsity sport. 

Lisa Neirotti, a Sports Management Professor at the George Washington University, says Esports are just like any other high school sports. Teams with the best records will go on to play in a state championship.

“They are going to be a more well-rounded individual by joining an Esport team,” Neirotti said. “You also have to perform in school because if it is a school sport in order to do that you have to be a student as well.”

Neirotti says there is a growing interest and demand in Esports. She expects every high school to establish a club or team within the next five years.

“I would have joined ninth grade,” Maryland high school senior Benjamin Malek said. “I would have instantly been in it. Esports is just always something I have been interested in and I think it is something that a lot of high school students are interested in, but they don’t have any way to involve themselves in it outside of just playing with a couple friends outside of school.”

Malek says his Maryland high school doesn’t offer Esports, so he competes and practices at the Game Gym, a private gaming club that offers coaching and competitions for students.

“One thing that we are doing and that a lot of high schools and middle schools will start to do — which I think is huge — is for the first time in these kids lives, tell them that what they love is okay,” Josh Hafkin, CEO and Founder of The Game Gym said. “And once you add some structure to that and enforce it and I think you’re going to see a lot of positivity that comes from that.”

He added that some of Esports’ toughest critics are parents, saying:

“I hope that parents treat video gaming a little bit more as an opportunity to learn than just a waste of time.”

Hafkin says Esports opens the door for more students to participate in a team sport because there are fewer physical limitations.

“You don’t need to be 6’8” to play video games. You can be male, female, short, tall, it doesn’t really matter, everybody is welcome in our world.”

Esports shouldn’t, however, be exempt from grade point requirements. George Washington University Sports Management Professor Lisa Neiroitti says high schools should require Esports players to maintain good grades to stay on the team.

Hafkin says there are also more opportunities for students to excel at a higher level. Right now, over 30 colleges and universities offer academic scholarships associated to Esports.

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