Evans High School creates model for CSRA Esports

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 7:13 PM EDT
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EVANS, GA -- Kids have had a lot more time on their hands lately, which probably means a number of them have turned to video games to help pass some of it. Their popularity is growing even more, and now, you may start seeing more video games in schools.

Evans High School is the only school in the area with an ESports program, and yes, it is a GHSA varsity sport where the players earn a letter.

"It's a GHSA sport. It's just like football, it's just like basketball, it's part of the GHSA family," said Evans athletic director Kevin Kenny.

It may seem odd that someone can earn a varsity letter for clicking a mouse and using a keyboard. The GHSA has been more open to allowing other sports to earn varsity status as Evans experimented with ESports this past school year.

"Georgia High School [Association] is expanding. You have to give them credit. They're trying to expand everything. They've got bass fishing, girls flag football, ESports," Kenny continued.

Kenny worked closey with Adam Cowart, a Spanish teacher and avid gamer himself, to begin getting the team set. It didn't take much publicity, just some fliers in the halls, for Cowart to pickup enough help to get a team going.

"I was hoping for a good turnout, and I would say we probably had about 50. 50 students in the classroom that came. I did not expect it to be that big. I was hoping for something good. I was hoping maybe 20 kids would show up," said Cowart.

The team ended up being so large, it forced Coward to create two tiers of players and even implement cuts. The team featured students who participated in other "traditional" sports and also included four girls.

The team did not receive funding from Columbia County in its first year. Cowart was able to get Butler Automotive Services to sponsor the team to help cover the cost of gaming computers.

The GHSA manadates that competitions are played from a classroom at Evans High School against a range of other Georgia schools, however this rule was relaxed to allow the team to finish out the spring season in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's still hard to shake the stereotypes of being a dedicated video game player. Cowart and Kenny both hope that the team will start break that stigma and that it will expand in the CSRA.

"He (Cowart) had a true team function and I think that really really plays a big part in it. And it belongs with school spirit, too," said Kenny.

"They know 100% this is business, this is a high school sports team. We are Evans High School Knights," finished Cowart.

The GHSA mandates that shooting games, like Call of Duty or Fortnite, are not allowed. One of the most popular competition games is Rocket League -- a demolition derby meets soccer hybrid. League of Legends is another popular competition game due to its emphasis on team strategy. There is some degree of violence in League of Legends, but is differentiated as a "casting" game instead of a "shooting" game.

Long term, Cowart hopes that more schools will sign on and can hold massive tournaments at large venues.