Competitive gaming opens opportunities for students uninvolved in traditional sports – The Omaha News
Omaha News

Competitive gaming opens opportunities for students uninvolved in traditional sports – The Omaha News

By: Zachary Hill, Reporter

OMAHA, Neb. – The Nebraska Schools Esports Association has grown from 13, to 70 teams in just three years. Westside High School has three state championships under their belt in just the two years of their program’s existence.

Competitive video gaming teams, or esports teams, are quickly spawning across the map, with Fall 2022 seeing OPS introducing the competition to all nine of their high schools.

Westside esports player Brandon Lao says esports is giving students who aren’t involved in traditional sports the opportunity to be part of a team.

“I think my favorite part about being on the team is being able to just hang around with a crew of people that I know personally and that I’m friends with and have a similar passion as me” Lao said.

Westside esports players practicing in their lab on February 21, 2023.

Esports has a lower barrier of entry which creates an avenue for students with disabilities prohibiting them from participating in other sports.

Westside’s esports head coach Chase Tonkinson says competitive gaming also has a place for students who aren’t as on the grind as the others, so to speak. They even have their own livestreamer.

“Like they can get into the broadcasting side or the journalism side, so we kind of sell it that way. Like we’re here, we’re learning skills, we’re learning how to communicate, we’re learning these online social media platforms” Tonkinson said.

Lao adds that he thinks it’s cool how video games have done a speedrun from being known as a nerdy pass time, to a commonplace in the after school setting.

Westside esports player Brandon Lao practices Overwatch 2 on February 21, 2023.

“You can convince a school administration that yes, building this lab is a good idea and it’s gonna benefit our students a lot, and it’s great to see that happen across the nation” He said.

According to Newzoo, esports is forecasted to hit 640 million viewers by 2025, which is far cry from the 435 million in 2020.

Lao says the reception from students outside of his party has never been negative, with most just wanting to know more about this growing sport.

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