Students showing interest in growing sport, activity
Newport High School is launching an Esports program that will include competitive teams and utilizing gaming as an educational tool while providing a new student activity.
Newport is the latest Northern Kentucky high school to embrace Esports, which allows schools to compete against one another and offers an opportunity for college scholarship funds.
"These are not the video games that my generation grew up playing," said Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Tony Watts said. "This is a big business, and these games are, as anybody knows who plays them, very high tech and sophisticated. Beyond forming a team, Esports will give some students an opportunity to participate in something other than sports."
At its most recent meeting, the Newport Board of Education voted to approve the high school's Esports program.
About 30 Newport students have expressed an interest in participating in Esports, which is short for electronic sports, said Newport High School Athletic Director Robert "Alan" Haire II. But he expects that number to grow as the Esports - which is short for electronic sports - program is launched and implemented.
"This is not just putting kids on a computer and telling then to play video games," Haire said. "They are actually competing locally, and even worldwide. Kids can earn scholarships and they receive all the benefits of team building, building character and being a part of something."
Esports is booming in Kentucky as well as across Northern Kentucky. According to the website of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA), more than 100 high schools in the state have formed or are forming teams. In Northern Kentucky, Newport joins Beechwood, Boone County, Covington Latin, Dayton, Dixie Heights, Highlands, Pendleton County and St. Henry and competing in leagues against schools from across the region and around the state.
The video gaming industry is a financial behemoth. With $120 billion in annual revenue, it is larger than movie, music and streaming markets combined.
Beyond the competition, Esports is being implemented in classrooms and lessons in technology, business, and entrepreneurship. Haire reached out to Northern Kentucky University to discuss how the Newport and NKU Esports programs may be able to work together.
"We were the first school in Northern Kentucky to reach out to NKU," Haire said. "With NKU's business programs and the College of Informatics, there is a tremendous potential for our students to take Esports to another level as they pursue their education. Esports could open up education and career opportunities such as Informatics, Information Technology, advertising, marketing, game development, digital design and more."
As he pulled together information on Esports programs, Haire reached out to his peers at Dayton and Beechwood high schools for guidance and advice.
"Beechwood is incorporating Esports as part of its STEM (science, technology engineering and math) program," Haire said. "At Dayton, one of their IT people is helping out with the program. I think we are just starting to the see the potential that Esports can offer our kids, and I am glad Newport is going to be a part of that.
According to a recent report on National Public Radio (NPR), more than 170 colleges and universities field Esports teams and are offering more than $16 million in college scholarships, numbers that are certain to grow as Esports continues to rise in popularity on high school and college campuses.
"Esports is big," said Superintendent Watts. "Students are earning millions and millions of dollars of scholarships. Some kids can even earn money by winning Esports contests."
Haire hopes to have the Newport High School Esports program running later this school year or in the fall.
"This is a program that is open to every student at Newport High School," he said.