Union Public Schools has launched the Oklahoma eSports League (OeSL) – the first high school-sponsored league of its kind in Oklahoma – in partnership with nine other school districts across the state. This new league will allow students of member schools in grades 9-12 to compete in five popular video games, including Clash Royale, Madden 2019, OverWatch, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers.
“There is a strong correlation between student engagement and success in high school, and eSports is another opportunity for us to connect with students and make the high school experience more relevant for them,” said Todd Borland, executive director of Technology for Union Public Schools. “A number of colleges are offering scholarships to eSports teams, so by becoming the State Champion in a game, students will increase their chances of helping to cover college tuition. This relates directly to Union’s mission of ‘100% Graduation, College & Career-Ready.’”
The eSports team is a competitive event and is not an after-school club. At this time, there are five games, with varying numbers of players per game. Depending on the game, there are 1-5 team members and 1-2 alternates per game. Participation must be earned, which includes a commitment to practice and maintaining student grades. The same academic requirements for eligibility faced by traditional athletes are also required of all eSports team members. Participating districts in the OeSL (as of this writing) are: Broken Arrow, Cleveland, Kingston, Lawton, Putnam City, Salina, Sapulpa, Sayer, Union Public Schools and Wilburton, with others in the process of forming teams.
Esports has been around for nearly two decades, but is fairly new in the collegiate arena. Today, more than 30 U.S. colleges and universities offer scholarships for gamers, including Robert Morris University, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Utah.
“Student success in the classroom is our #1 priority, and the eSports team allows for one more coach to keep an eye on student achievement to ensure all students are making adequate progress toward completing their graduation requirements,” said Borland.