This fall, Esports is making its debut as a CHSAA-sanctioned activity.
After a three-year probationary period, the association will offer four state championships over the course of the year for the League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Brothers, and Madden titles, while regional championships will be awarded in NBA 2K, Hearthstone, Mario Kart, and Splatoon 3.
“It’s extremely exciting [to be made an official CHSAA activity],” Cherry Creek head coach Alex Bak said. “Video gaming is something kids have been taking seriously for a long time and it’s really great to be able to give them recognition at the school level for their skill.”
With 94 schools set to participate in Esports this fall, there is certainly a widespread community that is excited to compete against one another both virtually, over consoles, and in person at the state championships and ready to show the rest of the state what Esports is all about.
“Esports is becoming bigger all of the time,” Bak said about the growth of the sport, worldwide. “A ton of professional sports teams have started to buy Esports franchises. In other places in the world, Esports is already selling out huge arenas. People pay and go to watch their favorite teams.”
With a following that rivals many athletic ventures, the opportunities that Esports is presenting for kids across the state are something remarkable. Bak is already inspired by what players in her program accomplished during the probationary period and hopes that Esports can open the door for even more future opportunities.
“I have kids getting college opportunities via Esports. I’ve had several kids get college scholarships for both gaming and for commentating too. There are lots of different opportunities that serve as justification for the hard work they have put into their sport.”
Just like any other sport, an incredible amount of training and practice goes into a successful Esports team. Bak says her team at Cherry Creek, who won state championships in both League of Legends and Super Smash Brothers prior to the activity being sanctioned, hosts both in- person and virtual practices, film review sessions, and team-building events.
“A lot of kids involved in Esports aren’t always involved in other sports and activities,” Bak shared. “It’s exciting for them to have the legitimacy, to wear their jerseys, and to be a part of the team.”
What’s unique about Esports is that players need virtually nothing to play. Bak says any school with computers and internet access to able to field a team, which can attract students of very diverse backgrounds, that otherwise may not come together.
“It’s extremely varied,” Bak said of the backgrounds she sees competing in Esports. “We have kids of all genders, races, and sexual orientations – it’s really a diverse group of kids. Gaming attracts an incredibly diverse group of people because pretty much everyone has some sort of video game that they like to play.”
When the state championships take place in both December for League of Legends and Rocket League, and again in April for Super Smash Brothers and Madden, it will be a celebration of all the hard work it took for the activity to be recognized. The atmosphere at Localhost, the Esports and gaming center in Lakewood where the championships are held, has only gotten more thrilling in the past few years and is set to be an inaugural event to remember in just a few months.
“I wish I had this when I was in high school,” Bak concluded. “Gaming takes a lot of skill, giving kids the chance to earn recognition from their schools and their peers for video gaming has been super exciting.”