Bentonville Schools approve esports, following Springdale

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA)– The Bentonville School District approves a new sport for kids, and they don’t even have to step onto a field.

It’s called esports, and over 100 schools around the state have jumped on board.

After last night’s board of education meeting, Bentonville High School and Bentonville West can join the competition.

Something the Springdale School District is already familiar with.

“You might not be out there, like running or jogging, but it’s pretty much an equivalent for the mental aspect of things,” said Jeremiah Shifflett, an esports organizer.

Esports: It’s an online gaming competition that’s slowly creeping into Northwest Arkansas schools, and it’s already earning high points in Springdal.

“It’s competitive, they loved it. It’s probably going to spread in our district this year,” said Rick Schaeffer, the communication director for Springdale Public Schools.

After an approval at the school board meeting Tuesday night, the Bentonville School District is following in the footsteps of Springdale, adapting esports as an after school activity.

Schaeffer said, “They competed on Mondays and Wednesdays, they went for several weeks, they did compete with other schools.”

In the spring of this year, the Arkansas Activities Association approved this new type of sport as a new activity for the state.

An outlet that Shifflett said is vital to increase inclusion.

“Not everyone’s built for that. You know you’ve got someone who’s maybe really short and small, really loves football, may go out and not succeed and that’s strictly because of the build of his body. But, anyone can play video games,” he said.

Shifflett said just it’s like normal sports, in that organizing a tournament isn’t easy.

He said, “You have to pretty much get there 24 hours ahead of time and then set up all the electronics necessary to even host it or even get it ready at all.”

The Springdale School District introduced this last year at the Don Tyson School of Innovation.

Schaeffer said he thinks there’s two reasons the kids are getting involved.

“One, kids love doing it anyway, and two it is a chance to further your education with a scholarship if you’re good enough,” he said.

Shifflett said schools need to accept esports, because they aren’t going anywhere.

“If you’re getting into esports, you’re going to be looking at a screen longer than most people but it’s a passion that people chose to pursue in life, and that’s something that you’ve got to respect,” he said.

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