Competitive video gaming has quickly risen to the ranks of "real sports" in many of the ways that count. These include big name sponsors, competitive pro leagues, college competitions and, in 2017, more global viewers than the 2016 NFL regular season
Esports is also big business, making money from investments, branding, advertising and media deals. The number of college scholarships and careers related to esports is also growing quickly. Because of this, many high school teachers, students and administrators are thinking about how to start an esports team at their school. The process can be quite easy. Plus, starting an esports club can deliver some major benefits.
This article gives you a step-by-step plan for starting a high school esports team and takes a look at the how having a team will benefit your school and its students. We’ll also provide resources for finding tournaments, supporting your club and thinking ahead about college scholarships.
No state has yet sanctioned gaming as an official sport. Because of this, all organized high school esports teams are run as clubs rather than as "school sponsored" sports. This may soon change, however, as organizations like the High School Esports League (HSEL), the High School Starleague (HSL) and Youth Esports of America (YEA) continue to actively lobby school districts to elevate esports to the level of schools’ football and basketball teams.
Until that happens, esports fans will need to go through their school’s typical channels for creating a new club. At most high schools this means finding a teacher or other faculty member to sponsor the club. Here are some basic steps to follow for creating a new high school esports club:
Once your esports club is formed and starting to meet regularly, you’ll want to start thinking about when and where you’ll compete. For more on how to get in on the gameplay, see the section below. But first, some info on the benefits of high school esports to help you begin promoting your club!
Being on an esports team in high school brings a number of immediate and long-term benefits. Some are similar to the benefits gained through participating in other high school sports and clubs; others are unique to the expanding world of esports. These benefits include:
The number of colleges offering esports scholarships is growing rapidly. In 2014, Robert Morris University was the first to offer an esports scholarship. Today, large schools like the University of Utah and the University of California-Irvine offer scholarships and have high profile esports programs modeled after traditional collegiate sports teams – with post-game meals, team jerseys and other perks.
An esports club is a great way to get more students involved in an interactive, skill-building, in-school activity.
The website scholarships.com offers an up-to-date listing of colleges offering esports scholarships with details on benefits and application deadlines.
Starting an esports club at your high school is a great way to get more students involved in an interactive, skill-building, in-school activity. Participants gain confidence, grow friendships and develop skills that will help them through high school and beyond. Getting a club going is easy. Start by finding a supportive teacher or other faculty member and spreading the word throughout your school. Build comradery and develop your competitive edge through regular meetings – then get in on the competitive game play by contacting the resources talked about above. For more ideas see the Appendix below: Additional Resources for Starting a High School Esports Team.
While getting together with your club members to practice is fun, competing is the heart and soul of esports. The easiest way to begin competing is to join up with an established nation-wide league like the High School Esports League (HSLE), the High School Starleague (HSL), or the Youth Esports of America (YEA), the largest and most promoted leagues. All host tourneys and provide lots of other support for high school teams.
The High School Esports League is currently the largest high school esports league in the US. HSEL delivers high school level competition across thirteen different games, including the most popular high school esports Overwatch and League of Legends. HSEL is also a strong advocate for making esports available to every student as a legitimate varsity level sport in high schools across the nation.
The High School Starleague organizes events that include league play, online tourneys, inter-school scrimmages, and live charity events. HSL works closely with schools to legitimize esports as part of schools’ athletics or extracurricular programs. Tournaments are organized around the regular school year and include Overwatch, League of Legends, and Smite, among others.
Youth Esports of America unites high school esports clubs to create a community of passionate gamers. YEA offers many opportunities for competitive gameplay, including its semester-long series for high school Overwatch and League of Legends competition. It also provides sanctioned smash events. YEA is committed helping provide high school students with the background they need to succeed within the esports industry.
In addition to these national leagues, some states offer organized high school esports action. If you live in Orange County, CA, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, there is already an established esports league. Finding and participating in tourneys is easy – just google your state, county or city and the phrase “high school esports.”
Even if your state or country has an esports league, your club may still want to find more competitive events. One way to do this is through websites that track and list esports competition. While the focus is often on college and pro-level tourneys, high school events are also sometimes listed. These include:
Colleges and universities with well-developed esports programs often host invitationals for high school esports teams. Those that have recently hosted events include:
Starting an esports club at your high school is a great way to get more students involved in an interactive, skill-building, in-school activity. Participants gain confidence, grow friendships and develop skills that will help them through high school and beyond. Getting a club going is easy. Start by finding a supportive teacher or other faculty member and spreading the word throughout your school. Build comradery and develop your competitive edge through regular meetings – then get in on the competitive gameplay by contacting the resources talked about above. For more ideas see the Appendix below: Additional Resources for Starting a High School Esports Team.
HSL – The High School Star league offers a guide that covers working with their league to start an esports club and how to maintain and grow existing clubs.
HSEL – The High School Esports League provides several videos on topics like: How to Apply to HSEL; How to Set up Game Connections; How to Register for a Tournament; and other useful topics.
YEA – The Youth Esports of America homepage links to a variety of useful info, including their Esports Recruiting Partnership, which provides tools to connect high school esports players with college programs.
Once you've got funding, it's time to build a gaming PC. Finding the right equiment is a whole new aspect of esports. Parts and pricing change dramatically, based on supply. Since you're limited on a budget, focus on the right setup. Focus on getting a fast processor, moderate graphics card and a monitor with a high refresh rate.