OXFORD, Miss. — There’s a newly sanctioned league in Mississippi that’s taking over athletics, and athletes can get in the game without ever leaving their seats.
Electronic sports, better known as Esports, have skyrocketed in popularity the last few years. Players compete online against anyone in the world — or for the Oxford High School Chargers, any other high school in the state.
“The MHSAA (Mississippi High School Activities Association) was actively looking for ways to involve more students,” said Ryne Bankston, Esports coach at Oxford High School. “They’ve legitimized them. They’ve taken them under their umbrella and really given them the attention and support.”
“It was very exciting for me, and it was kind of surreal,” senior Robbie McCurdy said. “Esports in high schools, you never really hear about it.”
“I was extremely happy, and I was kind of taken away,” senior Cooper Caviness said. “It was an opportunity for me to explore one of my greatest passions.”
The MHSAA is about to begin its second year of state-sanctioned Esports.
Oxford High’s Esports team more than tripled its roster from year one to year two, and they’re ahead of the curve.
They use Play V-S as a host. The largest organized gaming league in the country, Play V-S claims to have a wait list of over 13,000 schools, anxious to launch their own program.
“Our school district is constantly looking to provide opportunities for kids to engage and represent the school in a positive way,” Bankston said. “They recognized that this was one of those, and they’ve been on board.”
It’s not on a field or on a court, but in the computer lab that Oxford High School competes in the newest and fasted growing sport in the state of Mississippi.
They practice at least once a week in school, along with dozens of hours at home.
“It’s more about learning how to deal with situations as they come; more adapting versus being unprepared,” Caviness said.
“As it gets more and more official, more and more people commit, which allows you to have better practices and longer practices,” McCurdy said.
Once a week, the Chargers go to battle against high schools across the state.
“The competition level is insane,” Caviness said. “It takes a very calm person to understand the game and not get tilted.”
“Later that week, we’ll take that game and review it as film and see what we can do better,” McCurdy said.
“The best thing I can do for these kids is try to help them handle the highs and lows of competition,” Bankston said.
As of now, only 18 states allow for sanctioned Esports gaming, but that number continues to grow.
“The amount of people playing video games has gone up,” Caviness said. “The amount of teens playing them every day has gone up because of the fact that it’s more accessible to everyone.”
“Esports will very easily become the biggest sports program at any given high school,” Bankston said.
The Esports season in Mississippi officially began Feb 17. It will run its season through the Mississippi spring sports calendar.