With Texas school superintendents being surveyed last fall about esports, it appears the UIL is giving the idea of virtual sports gaming serious consideration. That might mean it won’t be long before Texas joins 17 other states already a part of the National Federation of High School Sports.
The gaming community calls esports “the great equalizer.”
Event winners include junior high students taking high school students to task in games like Rocket League (soccer with cars), League of Legends (team-based high-level strategy), Smite (team-based featuring a large pool of players from ancient mythology) and Fortnite the current top video game in the world.
Before parents start rolling their eyes and worrying about creating a generation of couch potatoes, they should be aware there are currently 170 colleges offering $16 million in scholarships. The University of North Texas and U.T. Arlington are among those schools offering esports scholarships.
Fortnite, as mentioned above, has a world championship competition series that was won last July by a 16-year-old Pennsylvania student who won $3 million in front of 2 million live viewers.
According to the Texas Computer Association, the number of school districts taking part in esports has jumped from 20 school last year to more than 300 this year.
The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD is considered to be the pioneer of esports as the district has laid out a structure it believes the UIL will use if the sport is ever sanctioned.
The system is designed to incorporate STEM curriculum as teams scout their opponents and play other schools across the country or in person.
The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD has taken a wait-and-see approach on the UIL sanctioning esports, but there’s more than a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying it’s beginning to look more like a case of “when” rather than “if” esports will be sanctioned.
Some predictions have esports coming under the umbrella of the UIL’s control by 2021, but the results of the superintendent’s survey didn’t get enough momentum for a motion to add the sport.
Adding a sport to the UIL appears to be a painfully slow process with the addition of water polo this year being the newest sport since wrestling was added in 1998.
Currently, only 36 percent of all superintendents said their school would participate should the UIL sponsor competitions with the high-mark being 5A schools and 54 percent participating.
Harrison was a little surprised by the survey results and said perhaps some school leaders hadn’t gotten their brain around precisely what esports contain and the potential of its future.
The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD had to cap its team at 75 students in its first year and has since made expansions to 155 team members and 30 students acting in support roles (e-water boys?).
The majority of those 185 students take part in esports and nothing else on campus.
In today’s world, where teachers and coaches are struggling to motivate students to become a part of team Mineral Wells superintendent of schools, Dr. John Kuhn likes the idea of using esports as a tool.
While Dr. Kuhn admits, he’s not entirely up to speed on the esports’ world, and he does recognize local students are gaming, and he does feel there would be a good following in Mineral Wells if the UIL does sanction the activity.
“It’s intriguing from the fact it would encourage students to become part of a team and help them with social skills and other areas of learning,” Kuhn said. “We are always looking to find ways to produce more well-rounded students.”
Kuhn also likes the idea that if the UIL approves esport, it would also fall under the no-pass no-play rules and would serve as motivation for students to do well in the classroom.
“There are endless possibilities for students to grow in many ways through being a part of a team,” Kuhn said. “I think if the UIL approves esports, we will look at it as a way to produce better students.”
Head football coach and athletic director Gerald Perry also sees esports as a way of motivating students to do better in the classroom. Still, as a coach and former athlete, he would also like to see students riding bikes and, of course, throwing a football rather than hooked up to a game console.
“I can see it being an excellent tool for motivation in the classroom, but I don’t know how it would work if the games were more specialized toward actual sports like football,” Perry said. “As a coach, you don’t want to overdo something and cause burnout.”
While esports may not have gotten enough interest this time around to be added as an extra-curricular activity (the UIL is still unsure ii it would fall under sports) this time, it’s going to be hard to ignore the industry.
According to Newzoo, a gaming industry analytics firm, there is a global audience of 458.3 million watching esports, and esports’ revenues are expected to almost double from $1 billion in 2019 to $1.8 billion in 2022.