IHSA exploring eSports

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Soon competitive gaming could be a recognized high school activity statewide.

The IHSA added eSports to its list of emerging sports and activities.

There are nearly 30 high schools participating in eSports across the state. Most of those nearly three dozen schools are in northern Illinois, but eSports could soon creep into Central Illinois.

It usually takes about 80 schools participating in a sport or activity for the organization to sanction it. We talked to a spokesperson for the IHSA today, they told us they want to get out ahead and start laying some groundwork. So, they’re forming an advisory committee.

It’s piqued the interest of some schools and students across the state.

“Yeah, a lot of my friends are really, I wouldn’t say gamers, but they love to play video games.”

It’s part of the reason Spencer Neitzel says IHSA looking at adding eSports to the list of activities is a good move.

He’s a senior at St. Thomas More, and we caught up with him playing a game of Overwatch. He’s considering going to college for computer science or computer engineering.

“As we continue with growth and technology, that gaming is going to become more and more usable and accessible.”

It means more people of all ages have access to videogames, and in recent years ‘competitive eSports’ have seen a big boost.

The IHSA says it may seem far-fetched, but it’s kind of like when they recognized bass fishing a decade ago.

eSports was a $1.5 billion industry in 2017, that’s expected to grow to $2.3 billion in 2022. There are an estimated 191 million eSports fans worldwide, and Neitzel says it could mean changes at high schools like his.

“I know a lot of high school students are going to wanna do it, because it is an open resource. It’s something that you can do after school, not particularly sports, but it’s still classified as an eSports. It can be beneficial to the kids.”

We’ve reached out to some school districts today. Centennial High Schools athletics director told me they want students to be engaged outside the classroom.

He says if eSports gets more people involved who aren’t already, then they’ll have to look into it.

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