Michigan Discusses Esports

January 3, 2019

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is discussing esports, as well as whether the association should officially sanction it as an athletic activity.

According to the Davison Index, Andy Frushour, Director of Brand Management, said schools are asking themselves whether esports are legitimate sports. Games such as League of Legends and Rocket League are popular among athletic departments that participate in esports, but they hesitate to include first-person shooters, such as Overwatch.

“Schools are seeing the potential benefit of esports,” Frushour said. “It’s all very new, and when your brand new to it, it’s kind of hard to grasp what it is, but it’s something that the MHSAA is considering.”

Frushour said that while esports seem to have little in common with traditional sports, they do teach similar values despite involving no physical exercise. He said participants in esports learn how to communicate, strategize, work as a team, and be reliable.

“We do see the benefits of esports as a team sport,” he said. “And there’s that educational nature of it as well – having more kids being involved in their school. A lot of students that might not be a part of their school’s athletics might be involved in esports.”

Frushour said the MHSAA was still only exploring esports at the moment.

“Right now, we’re sitting back to see what other states are doing, and trying to see what an appropriate level of involvement would be with the MHSAA, and how to even run a season,” he said. “We know students and schools are already doing it, the question is what our role would be, if any.”

Shad Spilski, Athletic Director of the Lapeer School District, said his district would strongly consider sanctioning esports, and he would sit on an MHSAA committee of athletic directors and principals to explore the possibility.

“Why not?” he said. “We have a lot of kids that aren’t as involved in the school, and we know that they’re gaming. With this, it really reaches that generation of kids.”

Spilski said the prospect of Michigan becoming the first Midwest state to do esports was “an exciting thing,” but the state would have to pace itself.

“We already have the infrastructure for it, and there are some teachers in our buildings that I’ll reach out to about it,” he said. “But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves – my biggest fear is to not do it right and end up failing.”

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