DENVER — Colorado high schools are opening their arms to video games by recognizing esports as a competitive activity via a pilot program this October. Schools will be able to form teams, have practices, and play other schools during the upcoming “season.”
“It’s a program that we’re very excited about launching as a pilot,” Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green of the Colorado High School Activities Association said.
CHSAA is the state body that oversees activities and athletics in high schools, including all varsity sports, band, choir, and other non-club activities. Esports will be the latest to be “beta-tested” by the organization to see how it works, before a full vote on whether it should come into the fold full time.
“This is where we compete. This is where we practice,” Shawn Collins, Arvada West High School Assistant Principal and Esports Coach, told Denver7.
Collins showed off a technology lab of computers that’s used for regular classes during the school day. After school, it becomes home base for the esports team. The school’s team started as a club activity, but will shift to a more structured school activity in October.
“Arvada West may end up playing Vail or Lamar or Cherry Creek or Ralston Valley right down the road,” Collins said.
Schools will be able to form structured teams that play certain video games against other schools, all online, after school. Games will be vetted to not include mature content or excessive violence, and will also have an educational component, according to CHSAA.
“Games that have been chosen are about kids using critical thinking skills and team play and all things that would occur if you were a part of a band program or part of a football team or a basketball team,” Blanford-Green of CHSAA said.
The organization said the number of students who take part in gaming is already more than most of their major sports.
“They’re in the top 5 participatory numbers that any activity that CHSSA would offer,” Blanford-Green said.
“Are we promoting video games? Absolutely. But you know what, these kids are already playing these games. These kids are already there, they’re already doing this stuff,” Collins of Arvada West said.
By bringing an activity like esports into the school environment, it also allows students that might not otherwise participate in clubs or activities to do so.
“It makes me feel a lot more confident in my abilities even though I’m not as athletic as most others in the school,” Gateway High School esports team captain Kevin Tran said.
Colorado’s pilot program of esports will include teams in 50 different schools to start. From there, growth is a real possibility.
“I truly believe that esports, as a competitive activity that we have it set right now, will probably over take the vast majority of activities and sports out there as far as the numbers,” Collins said.