ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The public health order has been tough on New Mexico’s student-athletes who have been waiting to play and compete once again. But there’s one sport where kids are thriving.
Del Norte High School students are practicing for their next match. “Beautiful shot, oh recovered, nice,” said their coach Luke Morrison. But their sport doesn’t involve a court, a field, or a net. Their playing field is the computer screen. They’re part of the Esports program, which is competitive video gaming. Since Albuquerque Public Schools started the program in 2019, it’s taken off.
“I’m happy and proud to announce Esports is going to be in all of our traditional high schools, charter schools, and some of our magnet schools as well,” said APS Chief Information and Strategy Officer, Dr. Richard Bowman.
The coronavirus stopped a lot of kids from playing in other sports, but with Esports, they’re still able to practice and compete, even with the restrictions. “This synergizes well with the pandemic because they can practice either at home and now with our safe policies, we can practice at school twice a week,” said Morrison. “But these guys play every day and they’ve played on with that community they’ve made at school.”
“Pandemic times have been hard but now we have Esports,” said Del Norte Esports player, Sebastian Salgado. “I get to come in once or twice a week and see my teammates and friends, so the social aspect is very nice because I get to interact with people without interacting with them.”
Although they still can’t have all of their teammates in one room, they’re able to practice even from a distance. “Esports is all-encompassing, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl, your experience level, everyone has a game they like to play,” said Del Norte Esports Coach Marta Anderson.
“I think it’s a really good idea that people are starting to know Esports is turning into a real thing, a real sport kind of like football,” said Del Norte Esports Captain Gabriel Jiminez. APS hopes students participating in the Esports program will one day get scholarships to play Esports in college.