GROVE CITY – Grove City Area School District could be the first district in Mercer County to offer an esports program.

“Let’s get our name out there,” said Jared Henshaw, who teaches classes at the high school including visual design and video production.

Henshaw and Dr. Joshua Weaver, the district’s assistant superintendent, presented some information on Monday night during the student affairs committee meeting at the school board work session.

Esports is organized video and computer gaming, and it is considered a competitive sport, they said.

The school has been looking for opportunities for more students to participate in sports that aren’t physical; perhaps they’re not able to get physical, or they’re not interested.

Henshaw’s classroom is available during the Lunch and Learn period at the high school – students can check out a variety of programs and activities.

His room has computers that support esports games, and it’s quickly become a popular spot for students.

“Now I have a rapport with them,” Henshaw said.

Weaver and Henshaw recently visited the esports program at Edinboro University and met the athletic director, who has recruited high school students skilled in certain esports games.

“It is like you went into a different world,” Weaver said of Edinboro’s setup.

Scholarship opportunities for esports are growing, Henshaw and Weaver said.

“This is a big deal,” Weaver said.

At the college level, there could be a lot of prize money for winning esports teams, with the money going to the school and academic scholarships for the winning athletes.

An esports program at the high school would be similar to other sports – the student-athletes would have to keep their grades up in order to participate, Weaver said.

High school teams can compete against each other remotely, and they would come together to warm up, just like any other team.

“They do the same thing, only it’s digitally...There’s pride in it,” Henshaw said.

There are tournaments for different age levels, and the Grove City team would play at the high school; that means no travel is required.

Anyone would be able to view the game and the players in real time through a website.

Startup costs are estimated at $1,050, which would cover webcams, headsets and a few games, Weaver and Henshaw said.

They would stick with games in three categories: everyone, ages 10 and up, and ages 13 and up. No “mature” games would be played.

Some of the most popular esports games include “Rocket League,” “Overwatch,” “League of Legends” and “Super Smash Bros.” and traditional sports games like football.

Esports also provides an opportunity for more females to get involved because it’s a level playing field, Weaver said.

And it’s not just about gaming; esports can teach students about problem solving, video production and entrepreneurship, he said.

“I think it’s great,” said Heather Baker, committee chair.

Two district employees have already volunteered to help, and Henshaw said he is willing to coach. There are also grant opportunities, and the high school would join the North America Scholastic Esports Foundation, Weaver said.

The high school’s esports program would formally start with the 2020-21 school year. Board member are expected to vote on the creation of the program at this coming Monday’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the board conference room at the district’s main office.

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