Esports puts Georgia high school teams on the race for victory

North Atlanta High Schools is now one of several high schools that offer an Esports competitive team, in alliance with the Georgia High School Association. The team of 12 practices multiple times a week multiple times a week in a computer lab that the team has customized themselves. (Julien Virgin/WABE)

What started off as after-school fun for most students has now evolved into a statewide school-sponsored competition.

High school teams across Georgia can now compete in Esports through the Georgia High School Association to become a championship team by the end of the school year.

Courtney McGhee, head coach of North Atlanta High School’s team, says that Esports requires tremendous critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

“The same thing that most of your athletes learn in rec sports or even starting in high schools, my students are getting it in Esports as well,” said McGhee, whose team was one of 175 that competed in GHSA Esports last season.

The team of 12, who compete in ‘Rocket League,’ ‘Super Smash Brothers,’ ‘NBA2K’ and ‘Madden,’ practices multiple times a week in a computer lab that the team has customized themselves. They have begun early preparation for the kickoff of the season in September.

Witt, the team’s student captain, is happy that the school has offered him and his teammates the opportunity to partake competitively in electronic sports.

He also disagrees with those who are under the assumption that the competitive gaming forum just consists of staring at a screen and pressing control buttons.

“It’s more than us just sitting and playing ‘Smash’ in a room … it’s genuinely practicing for tournaments,” the student said.

“With the growing world of Esports in recent years, they are finally getting an outlet to be able to compete and be recognized as individuals that are good at what they do,” said McGhee. “Just like our athletes.”

The popularity of online sports gaming has led Atlanta Public Schools to create an Esports pathway, beginning in elementary and middle school, educating students about various aspects of gaming, including audio engineering, narrative design and programming.

“We are preparing our students for careers that have yet to exist,” said Dr. Natasha Rachell, Director of Instructional Technology for Atlanta Public Schools.

The educator believes that it is important for students to become familiar with the multi-billion dollar gaming industry and the viable opportunities it could offer post-graduation, a career pathway that has seemed to score high with Witt.

“I’d love to be a professional ‘Smash’ player, that seems fun,” he said enthusiastically. “Maybe someday.”