Esports rise in Georgia schools, leveling the playing field for students. Digital arenas blend mental prowess with teamwork, redefining school sports.
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Atlanta – The sports landscape is rapidly evolving, and the “next big thing” in high school accolades is not what you might expect.
Students pick up controllers and headsets instead of soccer balls and football jerseys.
Gaming: Not Just for Fun Anymore
In the heart of Atlanta, some parents once believed that video games would be a distraction from their child’s academic and athletic pursuits.
However, the games might be the key to unlocking their success.
“It is like any sport,” Victor Wickham, a Greater Atlanta Christian School’s esports team member, remarked. “Like soccer, it is a mental prowess, seeing what opponents do.”
A Game Where Everyone Can Play
Gender disparities in traditional sports have been a topic of discussion for decades.
Esports provides a fresh perspective on this.
Ellie Hudgins, Wickham’s teammate, mentioned, “This is one of the few sports where girls and guys have the same opportunity because it is not physical. It is mental. A girl could beat a guy. It is equal.”
From Physical Field to Digital Arena
Greater Atlanta Christian School, often called GAC, is at the forefront of this digital revolution, allowing students to train on fan favorites such as Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart.
While Wickham’s in-game name might be “@somewhatboring,” his passion for the sport is anything but. “There are 70 characters in Mario Brothers.
You have to lose to everyone to know how to win against them,” he enthusiastically explained.
Russell Lawless, who has experience coaching physical sports, heads their esports team.
He equates the teamwork, leadership, and discipline required in esports to those in traditional sports. “In sports, we would talk about discipline,” Lawless stated. “With esports, there is discipline as well.”
Wickham’s journey has been one of growth and perseverance. “My first year ended with 2 out of 20 wins. It was not very pleasant. The next year, you improve keep getting better. The main point is never let losses get you down,” he shared.
More Than Just a Game
Apart from the thrill of competition, some students can earn varsity letters and scholarships.
However, for the GAC students, it is more than just accolades or money. Tyler Fernandez, another team member, commented, “We have a lot of diverse people. It is a great group of people.”
Indeed, esports is gaining traction across Georgia.
A testament to its growing popularity is the student from Carrollton High School who, in June, clinched the National Madden Championship and bagged his share of a whopping $1.7 million prize.
With esports on a meteoric rise, who knows what the future of school sports looks like?
The joysticks are in motion now, and the games have just begun.