As esports continues to rise in popularity across the U.S., the National Federation of High School Sports has taken notice. In April, the NFHS announced a partnership with esports startup PlayVS to establish a high-school level esports program, according to an ESPN article.
At least one local school, Windermere Preparatory School, is considering adding esports into its athletics program. To test the waters, Windermere Prep hosted its inaugural esports showdown Wednesday, Oct. 17, to see if students would be interested in participating, according to Danny Haney, athletic director for Nord Anglia Education.
“When it becomes a regulated sport, we want to be ready to compete,” Haney said. “We’ll treat our (esports players) just like a football player. The athletic department will run it and will support it just like any of the 19 sports we have here.”
At the esports showdown, Xbox One systems and laptops were set up throughout the school’s cafe. Students competed in games such as League of Legends, Madden, NBA 2K19, Fifa and Rocket League.
At the center of the cafe were 10 laptops running League of Legends, where two teams of five players competed against each other. A projector displayed the competing teams’ gameplay for spectators.
Haney said he’d been thinking about starting an esports program since December. The esports showdown was a beta test to see if the students would be interested in esports.
“It’s more of a test run,” Haney said. “We’re just trying to gauge some interest amongst our kids.”
Haney added that he hopes it could lead to something more permanent.
“My goal here is for it to take a life of its own, which it will,” Haney said. “We only advertised it for a few days, and we’ve already seen interest in our kids, and I think it’s going to bring a lot of our kids together because they all (play video games). …Ultimately, our goal here is to form a team.”
In addition to being something that could bring students together, esports also could be something to help a student get into college.
“Right now, there’s 68 colleges that provide scholarships to go to college for … esports,” Haney said. “If it’s an avenue to potentially (help students) get into college, then why not?”
When it comes to training, Windermere Prep might already be ahead of the game. The school’s head strength coach, Micah Kurtz, wrote an article published on stack.com regarding how strength training benefits esports athletes.
“The benefits for strength training can (work) for any type of athlete,” Kurtz said. “For the esports players (who) are sitting for prolonged periods of time, they’re going to have a tendency to have poor posture. Poor posture leads to poor oxygen (circulation) to the brain, which can decrease concentration. If you can improve posture, you can improve concentration, which is going to have direct effects on a video game player.”
To improve posture, Kurtz suggests doing exercises that work out the upper- and lower-back muscles, such as chin-ups, lat pulldowns, squat exercises, dumbbell rows and Romanian deadlifts.
“Anything that strengthens the posterior chain is going to help with posture,” he said.
The prolonged periods of time esports athletes spend sitting while they compete could cause mental fatigue. To address this, Kurtz said esports athletes also could benefit from mental endurance training, and he discussed how to do it.
“An esports player could be walking on a treadmill (or) riding a stationary bike while playing a video game, which is going to correlate to them to be able to concentrate while fatigued,” Kurtz said.