Although the program “is very much in the planning stages” according to Athletic Director Jason Gibson, Dawson County announced the formation of an e-sports team that is hoping to make its competitive debut in the spring of 2020.
“We wanted to make sure we were offering the same activities as the other schools in our area,” Gibson said. “E-sports has become very popular, so it was only a matter of time. I think it is a neat addition to our programs.”
Dawson County Junior High School health and P.E. teacher Johnathan Tinsley was named as the team’s head coach. Tinsley brings over 20 years of coaching experience to the program but admits that this is an entirely new adventure.
“I'm excited and nervous about Esports. I have coached sports for 22 years is Dawson County, but this will be a different creature,” Tinsley said. “I look forward to the season and learning with the kids.”
One of the fastest growing trends in the United States, electronic sports has an avid following that routinely exceeds tens of millions of fans who tune into events via online platforms such as Twitch, and prize money for some of the bigger events can reach astronomical levels.
The 2017 League of Legends world championship reported over 63 million viewers tuned into the event from around the globe and awarded a grand prize of $1,000,000 to the winning team.
Currently, 41 schools across Georgia offer e-sports and the events are subject to regulation by the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) much like all other sports. There will be two seasons per year, fall and spring, with regional playoffs at the end of each season and a state tournament at the end of the year.
Additionally, over 200 colleges and universities currently offer scholarships in e-sports and are actively recruiting players from across the country.
“I have been approached by kids from across the spectrum, football kids, basketball kids, kids that don’t necessarily play any sports,” Gibson said. “I don’t think we will have any problem filling the team.”
For the upcoming spring season, students will compete against each other in two player-versus-player (PvP) team-format games, League of Legends and Rocket League and, although it is easy to think of e-sports as simply playing video games, the emphasis is on strategy, teamwork and communication with the teams exhibiting the best of all three quickly rising to the top.
Unique to the world of e-sports, there is no travel as the teams will operate from a central location and compete in a virtual arena hosted by PlayVS, the official high school e-sports league.
“It is still very early in the planning stages,” Gibson said. “We have found our coach. Now we need to sit down and look at a place to play, the equipment, putting a team together… there is still a lot of work to do.”