Memo from the Virginia High School League to all its student gamers:

Limber up.

In the interest of engaging young minds and cultivating competitive instinct along with hopes of serving a potentially underserved constituency, the league’s executive committee has approved a one-year pilot program to gauge the feasibility of adding esports to the list of sanctioned activities.

Voted on at the May meeting of the committee, the proposal was announced earlier this month.

“Since approved by the Executive Committee, there has been a lot of positive feedback from schools and sponsors who are very excited about esports,” VHSL executive director Billy Haun said in a release. “The Virginia High School League is always looking to increase opportunities for students beyond the traditional activities.”

The program will be introduced with the aid of PlayVS, the esports platform provider and official esports partner of the National Federation of State High School Associations. PlayVS is already the esports platform for an unspecified number of other state associations, according the VHSL release.

An October to January season and a second season later in the school year, with dates to be announced, will be offered for the pilot period. PlayVS will help with data collection to assess interest during the pilot period and be provided the executive committee prior to final deliberations.

Schools may enter teams through the PlayVS Website any time prior to the season. Three game titles will be offered: “League of Legends,” “Rocket League,” and “SMITE.” Schools may enter teams of different players for each of the three.

Cost per student is $65. Students maintain VHSL eligibility for other activities. No travel is required for competition.

Esports is competitive gameplaying between two teams under strict rules, according to PlayVS literature. Required equipment per player is a personal computer, keyboard, mouse, headset and microphone, team jersey and game controllers.

Benefits of esports are promoted as including the possibility of future college scholarships for top players. Over 200 colleges and universities now offer more than $15 million in scholarship money.

Other pluses being touted include development of STEM skills, teamwork, leadership, character development and providing a path to participation for those students not inclined toward physical sports and other school activities.

Reaction among officials at Timesland schools has been tempered as they await more information and the pending arrival of students and faculty in August.

“We’ll hold a meeting to determine student interest and make an announcement in the staff meeting to see about interest in being a coach or advisor,” Lord Botetourt athletic director Chuck Pound said. “Then we’ll go from there.”

Floyd County principal Barry Hollandsworth’s initial reaction was positive.

“I think the idea of esports has merit,” he said. “I’m all about adding opportunities for kids. I do think there are going to be some pretty significant costs, though. The game stuff can be pretty expensive. That’s probably going to be one of the most significant issues.”

Expenses were also on the mind of Franklin County athletic director Crystal Worley.

“I think we’re all worried about hidden costs,” she said.

Patrick Henry is not ready to commit at this point, according to athletic director Patty Sheedy.

“We don’t have enough information yet to figure out how it would work,” she said.

Tommy Golding, the Martinsville athletic director, indicated he also needed to do some more research into what would be involved.

“I see both pros and cons,” he said. “I’m on the fence at this point.”


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