Esports finding a home in Alabama high schools

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 11:37 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Sports will always be popular with youth in America, but there’s a new phenomenon that’s generating monster momentum.

Young people are cashing in on esports, or multiplayer video games played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. The phenomenon has even trickled down to the state of Alabama, powered by a company called PlayVS.

“It is a huge place for these kids that don’t play sports, that don’t play music. They’re not part of the band, but they play games," said James Clemens esports coach Pam Paquette. “They’re learning leadership skills. They’re learning team-building skills. They’re doing all kinds of things as well as having some fun.”

Two games are sanctioned by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The first game called “Rocket League.” The other game, called “League of Legends,” has teams compete across virtual battle fields

“We had number eight here, but they don’t have as many points as this one had so they got in,” said Paquette.

Paquette leads teams that compete in “Rocket League” and “League of Legends” respectively.

“In January, PlayVS came out with a new thing. They were going to do esports as an official sport. They were looking for a coach and I said, 'Pick me. I’ve already done it. The kids have already asked me about it. I know who the kids are that want to play, so that’s how we got started," she said.

James Clemens esports players never thought a day would come to be able to hone their skills in a virtual world.

“It’s just really crazy how the world’s changing and how big esports are becoming that it’s a high school thing now. I never would have thought I’d be playing high school,” said Kane Stone esports varsity captain at James Clemens.

Esports are the wave of the future. By the year 2022, the esports market is expected to reach $1.8 billion.

Above all else, esports have given those who don’t play or compete at traditional sports an avenue that wasn’t provided just years ago.

“If you would have told my middle school self that I was going to be playing esports for a high school like it was any other sport, I would have told you, I would have believed you because you are my future self, but I would not have believed it initially," said Stone.

PlayVS hopes to bring more gaming titles to high schools in the coming years to bring even more students to the world of esports.

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