Esports in Arizona high schools.
Starting Feb. 25, the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s inaugural spring esports season will commence with schools competing against each other in Overwatch (6 on 6 gaming battles) and Smash Brothers (1 on 1).
The AIA currently is registering schools until Feb. 21.
In August, the AIA announced it was going to introduce esports this school year.
A news release out of Chicago, the High School Esports League announced that the AIA is partnering with Legacy Esports for official high school esports competitions in Arizona powered by HSEL’s Varsity Esports platform.
Regular-season competition runs from Feb. 25-April 19, according to the AIA’s web site, with competitions on Tuesdays (Overwatch) and Thursdays (Super Smash Bros Ultimate).
The Postseason Online Knockout Tournament runs April 29-May 3, and the state championship is May 10-11.
Trophies, medals and banners will be given.
“With the continued growth of esports nationwide, we wanted to create a structured format for high school students to compete for a state championship in Arizona, no different than any other sport or activity,” Brian Bolitho, Director of Business Development for the AIA, said in the release. “We are excited to partner with Legacy Esports and HSEL as they are best suited to provide the esports platform that best fits our mission and vision.”
Gilbert Public Schools appear on board.
Gilbert Mesquite Athletic Director Scott Hare said that there have already been a couple of fundraisers to get esports going at his school. He said about $2,500 was raised to upgrade the computer lab. The Gilbert district helped with reconfigurating computers for the gaming competition.
“It’s a niche on our campus,” he said. “We had about 40 people come out. And so many others came out to watch. There is interest like there was when lacrosse came to the West Coast. People are going, ‘What is this?'”
Hare, who recently became Mesquite’s football coach, said there are 13 members on the Mesqute esports teams. They have a lab and practice after school. It can get obsessive and intense.
“I got a phone call from security, saying we had kids in there at 8 o’clock at night, wondering what they were doing in there,” Hare said. “They’re working hard, knowing the date for the start-up.”
Hare believes this will be much like sand volleyball in Arizona with the interest and awareness rising and the spring sport expanding to all over the state. He said during the spring sports meetings held by the AIA, there were about 50 people in the room for esports.
“I do know that current student-athletes play in (gaming) tournaments,” Hare said. “I don’t think a baseball player or a track athlete will leave their teams to join this. Not yet, at least. The group in esports already are doing tournaments on their own.”