One of the fastest-growing sports in the world is actually played on a computer, and colleges are taking notice to recruit those players for their schools. Esports, a shortened named for electronic sports, are team-based video game competitions watched in person or online by spectators. Staff members at Ben Barber Innovation Academy started an esports club at the school four years ago to encourage students to interact with each other while engaging in their passion. The school recently unveiled its esports studio, which is fully equipped with gaming chairs and powerful computers.
“There’s not a lot of clubs like this that are putting out the money to get computers and pay for tournaments just so these kids can try to pursue that later in their career,” says Yaden Gant, a junior at Lake Ridge High School who is a part of the club.
Students in the organization compete online via computer or console, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. Through the competitions, their skills are able to be seen by higher education institutions and professional esports leagues.
“Right now, a lot of the universities are having esports directors,” says Dr. Kashieka Popkin-Duncan, business education teacher and esports club sponsor at Ben Barber Innovation Academy. “So they’re recruiting students for their team … the same way you have recruiters for football or for basketball, we have recruiters for esports now.”
Miles Myers, a senior at Timberview High School, earned a college scholarship for video gaming. He has been playing since he was young, and after joining the esports club at Ben Barber Innovation Academy he caught the eyes of universities.
“I was offered a $17,000 scholarship to Ottawa University, which has a very good esports program,” says Myers. “It was a dream come true honestly. I never thought I’d get to this point. It’s so different from baseball and football.”
Apart from the love of gaming, students in Ben Barber’s esports club build a comradery. They said it’s cool to meet fellow online gamers in person. “My favorite part would definitely be playing with all my friends and getting to meet the new people,” says Luke Jaksik, a junior at Lake Ridge High School.
That’s a sentiment shared by Dr. Popkin-Duncan as well. “For me, the joy of them now being able to physically come here, and see each other, and talk and build lifelong friendships is just a pleasure,” says the teacher.
The Ben Barber Esports Club meets on campus every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. MISD students are welcome to join. For more: www.vimeo.com/638800804