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Let the Esports begin! IHSA ramps up new activity for gamers

It is official. Starting next February Illinois high schools and students will be able to compete against each other via networked computer video games. The Illinois High School Association will host the first-ever esports state championship next April with students competing in three games, NBA2K, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers. Esports, short for Electronic Sports, will be classified as an activity with its state finals running from April 17 to April 30 in 2022.

Esports is now the 10th activity offered by the IHSA. It joins joining bass fishing, chess, debate, drama & group interpretation, speech, journalism, music, and scholastic bowl as one of the IHSA’s total State Series offerings. The athletic association now administers 41 total sports and activities.

"It is exciting any time that we can expand the IHSA mission by offering another opportunity for students to represent their schools in competition," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a released statement back in August. "We appreciate the time and effort put forth by our staff and the committee members who helped get us to this point."

Anderson added, "Research shows that there are educational, mental, and social benefits to having students compete for their high school in any activity or sport, so we look forward to Illinois high school students who are passionate about esports being able to enjoy those benefits."

Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Played in multiplayer online video game format. A growing number of professional and amateur competitions are broadcasted live with competitors earning significant prize money. Prize pools for international competitions have been as high as $34 million dollars.

If the IHSA had adopted Esports as a sport, then students would be required to follow the association’s amateur rule (IHSA By-law 3.080), which would limit any prizes a student could accept. With Esports classified as an activity, students who compete in high-level amateur or professional tournaments can keep prize earnings and retain still their eligibility to compete in the association's state series.

How can students start an esports club or team at their school? The first step would be to find other students interested in forming a team and then talk to their school's principal, athletic director or activity director to see how they can officially form the new club or team.

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