ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools’ teams are getting in on the competition, and this time, it’s all happening behind the computer. They’re taking competitive video gaming to the next level, all thanks to esports.
“Esports is competitive video gaming,” said Dr. Richard Bowman with APS. “Our kids get together on a team, supporting their school and being able to exercise their leadership.”
Esports are gaining steam at APS. For some schools, the number of players have doubled in the past year.
“We had about double the size this year so we’ve got a much bigger club,” said Dave Ryan, the esports head coach at La Cueva High School. “Our computer lab is struggling to house all the students this year.”
The high interest is sparking the district’s first-ever esports tournament. The one-day event, free to attend, includes competitions between schools, virtual reality simulations, esports commentary during the matches, and even college scouts and scholarships.
“I’m in the part of my senior year where I’m starting to look at colleges and future opportunities,” said Max Todd, a senior at La Cueva. “Now that I’ve improved just on my own willpower, it’s insane that it could actually help me with college and help me afford to go somewhere so I can achieve my big dreams for the world.”
Todd says he first heard of esports early-on in high school. Beyond the scholarship and college opportunities, he says esports is making a big impact in his life.
“It wasn’t until the last day of tryouts that I decided to do it, but I never regretted trying out. I’ve had the most fun I’ve ever had in my schooling career, playing esports,” said Todd. “I’ve always played by myself in Rocket League, but now I’ve met friends with the same passion as my own and now I can play, even when we’re not in school together.”
Coaches say the competition isn’t just for athletes. They see students of all abilities signing up. “I’ve got academic champions, I’ve got state sports champions, as well as kids who have never been in a club or a team,” said Ryan.
Right now, the district competes in three games: League of Legends, Smite and Rocket League. They say that number could grow as more students gain interest. “There are endless possibilities for games and the more games we add, the more students we’re going to have in that lab, competing,” said Ryan.
APS says this is just the beginning of esports in the Duke City. They see it becoming available for students of all ages. “Esports is just beginning in K-12,” said Bowman. “It’s going to be getting bigger and bigger in the future.”
There are currently around 16 teams in the district. APS hopes to have all of its high schools participating in esports by the end of the school year.