The rapid growth of high school level Esports


Elijah May

KC Staff Writer Elijah May watches the 2018 HSEL League of Legends Nationals

World championships, prize pools of millions of dollars, and the most rapid growing audience in the world. Esports isn’t your normal “sport” but it certainly seems to be becoming one in the past 5 years or so. Many would find this odd, but believe it or not Esports is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world. Global competitions and leagues like the Overwatch League, The League of Legends World championships, and the Evolution Championship series are some of the premier competitions for Esports.  

The thought that high school students would ever be able to participate in a official league for competing in games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch was at one point a pipe dream. Until leagues like the High School Esports League, or HSEL, and PlayVS, nobody would have figured that Esports would be considered a high school sport option.    

The HSEL was formed in 2013 and is a Esports league dedicated to bringing Esports into high schools across the nation. This past year HSEL has partnered up with the National Association of Collegiate Esports, or NACE, in order to make a more streamlined way for students to get involved in College Esports and eventually scouted by pro teams, akin to how the NFL and other sports leagues scout players. This is a major step in establishing a real connection with professional Esport leagues. It’s one of the many steps the HSEL has taken to achieve its goal of becoming the top high school Esports league   

While the HSEL is the biggest current high school Esports league, with around 500 partner clubs, recently a rival organization has merged in the form of PlayVS. PlayVS is a new organization that is starting its inaugural season this year and is trying to bring Esports to high schools through the NFHS, or the National Federation of State High School Associations. The NFHS is the organization responsible for organizing most high school level sports within the United States. The PIAA, or Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, is one of the organizations connected to the NFHS.

With these two organizations both attempting to bring schools into their league, the HSEL has a clear advantage in terms of size, however PlayVS has the NFHS backing them. PlayVS is also attempting to be the more school friendly option by not allowing shooters, while the HSEL recently partnered with EPIC Games, the developer of Fortnite, to have a famous Fortnite player meet the team that wins the 2018-2019 Nationals.

For schools interested in the future of Esports, paying attention to these two leagues is crucial. Will the more experienced HSEL come out on top despite allowing shooters? Or will the less experienced PlayVS become the league of choice due to the NFHS and not allowing shooter games? No matter what, the future of high school level Esports is looking hopeful.