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Sanctioning of Esports in state likely years away

While the New York Public High School Athletic Association has begun exploring the possible implementation of Esports into their organizational reach, executive director Dr. Robert Zayas expects it to be a slow process and said it would most likely take ‘years’ before it is sanctioned on the state championship level.

Esports, which is essentially competitive video gaming, has grown into a billion dollar industry over the past few years. There are professional, collage, and high school video gaming leagues across the country with huge followings. Local collages NYIT and Molloy each have a team, as does Bay Shore, Jericho, Journey Prep, Locust Valley, North Shore, Sachem North, Sayville, and St. Anthony’s high schools.

Zayas met with ‘nearly 30’ administrators from across the state at his office in Latham Tuesday.  Following the meeting, they attended the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Esports state championships. Neither Nassau or Suffolk were represented at the purely exploratory meeting, Zayas said.

“I’m just interested in the appeal,” Zayas told Newsday Wednesday. “What’s the appeal for kids to play and what’s the appeal for people to watch other people play video games? I’m not a gamer, I’ve never been involved in that…. I think we’re years away from even sanctioning it as a state championship or anything like that. That’s why I said it’s completely exploratory and completely in discussion right now.”

Zayas said he sees the benefits to Esports teams in much the same way he sees benefits to any extracurricular activities.

“When you look at it though, from anecdotal evidence that’s being provided to us, when kids participate in these clubs – and it could be any club, Esports, theatre, band, or speech and debate – a lot of them are deriving the same benefit that you get from being on a football team or a volleyball team,” Zayas said. “You’re working with a sponsor, you’re in a controlled environment, and you have an immediate sense of community and belonging.”

Zayas continued: “We see grades get better as a result of participation. We see kids want to come to school at a greater rate, we see discipline issues decrease. That’s not just with football or basketball, that’s any activity that a school can get a kid involved in…Anytime we, as adults, can find a positive thing to get kids involved in, I think we’re doing our job to increase that participation opportunity for kids.”

Zayas said that six sections have expressed interest in receiving more information about Esports. Neither Nassau or Suffolk were included in those six.

“Our next step would just be to bring those people together and say ‘what do you think?’ and looking at it from a exploration standpoint,” Zayas said.

More than anything, Zayas said that more education on the topic is needed before any further discussion moves forward.

“I need to be better educated on the topic, because kids are doing it,” Zayas said. “There are clubs, teams, and leagues forming and I really feel like I have to do my due diligence on behalf of the membership.”

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