Esports coming to Virginia high schools beginning this fall

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By Rod Short

By: Rod Short
Sports Editor

    As hard as it may be to imagine for traditional sports fans, Esports is coming to Virginia high schools beginning this fall.
    That news came with an announcement from the VHSL, Virginia’s governing body for high school sports, that a pilot program has been approved and will begin as soon as the 2019-20 school year.
    “Since approved by the Executive Committee, there has been a lot of ​positive feedback​ from schools and sponsors who are very ​excited about Esports​,” said VHSL Executive Director John W. “Billy” Haun, Ed.D. “The Virginia High School League is always looking to ​increase opportunities​ for students beyond the traditional activities.”
    What exactly are Esports? This is a term associated with the computer-based competitive gaming industry.
    Three different games within the PlayVS platform will be offered in the VHSL pilot program; League of Legends, Rocket League, and SMITE.
    Each game will be run within its own set of strict rules and are rated as appropriate for the participant’s required minimum age of 13.
    The fall season will run from October to January while the spring session will run from February to May with weekly matches.
    All that’s needed for students to compete is a PC with a keyboard and mouse. Additional equipment might include a microphone headset, mouse and team jerseys.
    According to information provided by the VHSL, there are multiple benefits according to Esports. This includes a sense of community, character development and increased student engagement -- all of which can directly lead to higher levels of student achievement.
    These claims are echoed by the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) which claims 125+ colleges and universities nationwide offer similar programs. Some include scholarships and help with job placement.
    Averett University in Danville, Randolph-Macon in Ashland and Shenandoah University in Winchester are the Virginia schools included on that list
     While recent estimates show that Esports now has over 300 million global participants, its impact still isn’t clear for Bedford area schools.
    A query to the county’s three high schools asking if they look to participate produced only one response, which was a “maybe”.