As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, we can reflect on how the legislation has helped promote equality and change in sports at all levels. The impacts are continued to be felt, both in traditional sports and new.
The growing popularity of esports has not been confined to just one gender. There are scholarship opportunities for all in this rising sport.
Darlene Pineda is one woman in the most recent graduating class to receive a scholarship to play esports at the next level.
The Portales (N.M) High School alumnae will play League of Legends at New Mexico State University, with the goal of broadening her scope and playing more games, if the opportunity presents itself.
For there are countless opportunities now for people to play esports competitively and monetize their talents. Livestream tech such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitch have allowed people to play games with audiences tuning in for the competition.
PlayVS is part of the efforts to arrange these games into varsity-level, competitive, organized sports. Their mission, which helps students like Pineda get scholarships at the collegiate level, has outcomes that make high school sports all the more interesting.
Pineda shared her story in an email interview exchange with USA High School Sports. The following is the transcript of the conversation:
Q: When you started playing esports as a sophomore, did you ever think that you’d be able to get a college scholarship for playing?
Darlene: When I started playing esports as a sophomore, I remembered my coach telling me that there were people out there handing out scholarships for playing. With that, I kept it in my mind and played as much as I could so I could get better and be recognized for a scholarship. I definitely had some doubts that I wasn’t good enough for anyone to ever recognize me, but our head director of our esports program had definitely helped us get to that point.
Q: Over the last few years, how have you seen high school esports progress and grow?
Darlene: In my small town, when we first started not that many people joined; I would say about 15 people joined. Now, there’s so much more people joining and people who are committing. I volunteered at the esports camp at the high school this summer and taught new members joining about the game I played and told them about the scholarship I was getting. With my friends and I getting scholarships to play video games for a college, I feel that it has opened more opportunities for those who love playing video games to get into a college and play for them.
Q: What is your greatest memory/moment from your time playing in high school?
Darlene: My greatest memory from my time playing in high school would probably be finding out about us getting scholarships to play esports. It was our very last time playing for our high school and we wouldn’t have thought about getting signed into college esports. I thought I would have to go to college and try to get into the program the hard way, and it scared me because I always doubt myself and always think I would never be good enough to get into any of that. I’m also shy and quiet and it would have been really hard for me to find my way in.
Q: As a kid, what video games did you play and how did these moments contribute to your high school career?
Darlene: When I was a kid, I played almost everything. I had a Nintendo DS, PSP, a Wii, a PS2 and Xbox 360 I shared with my brother, a PS4, and now a PC. I played games from Pokemon to GTA to COD and Modern Warfare games. I used video games as an escape from everything that was going on. I’m glad I never got tired of playing video games, because I got a big opportunity from doing something I loved doing.
Q: How did playing esports in high school helped shape you as a person and your growth into your next chapter?
Darlene: Video games, for me, were almost another world I lived in. It was another way to let out my creativity and keep my inner child. Who wouldn’t love playing video games as part of their career? I hope to continue playing and making more memories by doing something I love as a part of the next chapter in my life.
Q: Why did you choose to play League of Legends? What other games do you hope to be able to play in college?
Darlene: I chose League of Legends because I had already been playing it beforehand and my school didn’t offer any other games at the time besides Rocket League and Smite, which many people were already playing and no one really played League of Legends. In college, I hope to play Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty along with playing League of Legends, even though I probably won’t get on those teams.
Q: How do you foresee the high school esports landscape changing in five years?
Darlene: I see high school esports encouraging kids to keep doing what they love and prove that playing video games is more than just sitting in front of a screen with pretty colors.