MHSAA exploring video gaming as varsity sport

Student athletes in Michigan can earn a varsity letter in just about any sport. So why not gaming? 

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is exploring the idea of making video gaming a varsity sport.

Officials with the MHSSA are discussing all future sports right now with athletic directors, coaches and superintendents across the state. MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl tells us it's important to include video gaming in that conversation because the sport has already been brought to several colleges in Michigan. 

"We don't know if we want to do this yet but we at least need to have the conversation," he says. "We just don't want a really good idea and concept to launch and for us to be behind." He says a lot of tech companies are getting behind this idea, too, because they know it's a gateway to future programmers. 

Of course one of the biggest criticisms is that this would encourage kids to be less active and spend more time in front of the screens. But Uyl thinks, if the MHSSA decides to go for the idea, that this could actually get students more involved. 

"What we're also thinking, though, is this could be a way to engage with kids to get them more active. [If] we just sit back and shrug our shoulders and say, 'Let's not even talk about eSports,' we may be missing a great opportunity to connect with all those kids that right now are in the gaming world," he says. "This is the way [to say to the student] that, 'Hey, we're offering a gaming or an eSports opportunity and when you get finished with this, you know what? Here's some other things you can do with the MHSAA and your high school and become active and to find that right balance in life.'"

While Uyl didn't say which specific video games may be involved in the sport, he did say they would look at more team-based games instead of violence-based.

To consider adding any sport, at least 64 schools must sponsor it. 

"What's been interesting is after each one of our meetings, a lot of administrators may kind of roll their eyes initially, but they know that a lot of kids are spending time doing this and we at least need to be part of the conversation," Uyl says. He says he knows about 15 other states are exploring this idea right now, too. 

He says the MHSSA is going to finish up talking with all the schools in mid October and will reevaluate from there.