New Hanover Co. Schools officially adds esports as a high school sport

Hoggard High School
Hoggard High School(WECT)
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 12:00 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On March 7, the New Hanover County Board of Education unanimously approved funding for esports to be added as a sport for high schools.

The board approved the spending of $165,000 for equipment, $12,000 a year for league membership, and a coach stipend of $687.5 per month for each coach. The presenters explained that rules for coaches and participants would function similarly to how they do for other school sports.

The staff liaison for the request was Dawn Brinson from the Technology and Digital Learning Division, and Jay Campbell, a CTE teacher at Hoggard High School. He previously brought the possibility of an esports club to Hoggard to Assistant Superintendent Dawn Brinson.

Campbell gave the presentation to the board, which defines esports as “highly organized competitive multi-player video gaming.” Depending on the game and competition, the players are placed in teams of several people or face off against a single other player.

“93 percent of teen boys and 83 percent of teen girls play video games. Some of these teens are involved in school clubs and sports. Many, however, are not. By offering esports as an extracurricular activity, schools reach students who are often otherwise disengaged from the school community,” Campbell said.

The presentation explains that eight county high schools already have an esports club and coach and that two in-person esports competitions were held in the fall of last year. It also mentions the $30 million allocated by the General Assembly to promote esports in North Carolina, and a 3,300-square-foot esports arena built by the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

“Esports in schools can transport those kids from the solitary world of digital gaming into the common space of the school community through the library or computer labs. These otherwise uninvolved students join the ranks of their successfully involved peers, more likely to be engaged during classes, more likely to graduate, more likely to aspire to higher education,” he said.

The current games being played by clubs include Rocket League, a team game where players use cars to hit a giant ball into a soccer-esque goal, and Brawlhalla, a team-based game where players fight as cartoony characters. Campbell also hopes to bring Minecraft Survival Mode and other games that the students are interested in playing. Rocket League in particular has a major esports presence, with teams competing for part of a $6 million prize pool in the 2022-23 season of the Rocket League Championship Series.

Campbell noted that the games will not include first-person shooters and will be rated for the appropriate age group by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

“Gaming can be an isolating pastime. When students can join school esports teams, it becomes a social experience.”