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Varsity Letters for Gaming? NFHS Announces eSports Plan

16 May, 2018

By: Michael Popke

The excitement of eSports might be coming soon to a high school near you, something that could have a trickle-down effect for planners if the idea gains traction.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NFHS Network announced in late April a partnership with online gaming provider PlayVS to begin the rollout of eSports competition in high schools throughout the country this fall. Plans call for an initial rollout to at least 15 states. Schools will compete in a regular season on the PlayVS online platform, and state championship games will be played in front of spectators and streamed on the NFHS Network.

This is something planners will want to keep on their radar, since the potential for growth is immense and the possibility for state, regional, local and national championships could drive business to areas that are already a hub for eSports. 

Variety, the entertainment-business news website, reports that “competitions will focus on three genres: multiplayer online battle arena games, fighting games and sports games. Students can select their own teams regardless of experience, gender or age, and there will be no limit on how many teams each school can have. This gives all students a chance to compete at the varsity level. There will be two seasons each school year.”

“PlayVS' philosophy on high school-based sports and focus on participation perfectly aligns with the NFHS and its member state associations,” NFHS Network chief executive officer Mark Koski said in a statement. “We looked at many potential eSports partners, and PlayVS was the clear choice — thanks, in part, to its overall education-based concept, mission and vision.

Koski went on to explain why eSports participation provides a perfect opportunity for high school students. “First, eSports may involve students who haven’t been involved in a sport or activity in the past,” he said. “Second, the costs to implement eSports are minimal compared to starting a traditional sport, which can be extensive with equipment and facilities.”

Nearly 200 colleges in the United States and Canada are actively recruiting and offering scholarships for eSports, and companies within the eSports industry are looking to hire individuals with experience across multiple aspects of gaming.

PlayVS will operate all eSports competitions for NFHS member state associations in a turnkey manner. “[This] is about more than just playing games – [eSports] can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills,” said Delane Parnell, chief executive officer and founder of PlayVS. “Since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it's about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting."

The NFHS eSports venture isn’t the first foray into this area for high schools. The High School Esports League, an independent organization, allows schools to partner with the league for $5 per student per month and participate in tournaments, sponsored parties and Twitch.tv broadcasting incentives.

As Sports Destination Management previously reported, eSports events routinely sell out in multi-use facilities such as Seattle’s KeyArena, Staples Center in Los Angeles and New York City’s Madison Square Garden — making it obvious that destinations are recognizing the potential for growth in this category.

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