BC-OK--Oklahoma-Esports League, 1st Ld-Writethru,287

Oklahoma districts form high school esports league

(Eds: Updates with background, details, quotes from technology director, coach and student. Not for online use in Tulsa market.)

Students in about 10 Oklahoma school districts can participate in competitive video gaming as an extracurricular activity with the launch of a high school esports league. The Tulsa World reports that the first friendly match of the Oklahoma eSports League will be held April 20 at Union Public Schools. Todd Borland is the district's director of technology. He says the league is a way to reach out to students who don't participate in other extracurricular activities.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Students in about 10 Oklahoma school districts can participate in competitive video gaming as an extracurricular activity with the launch of a high school esports league.

The first friendly match of the Oklahoma eSports League will be held at Union Public Schools on April 20, the Tulsa World reported.

The league is a way to reach out to students who don't participate in other extracurricular activities and "make the high school experience more relevant for them," said Todd Borland, the director of technology at Union Public Schools.

"A lot of research shows that playing video games, for even 30 minutes, can reduce stress loads," he said.

Like other sports, the league has academic eligibility requirements. Rules also state that students' in-game actions must remain tasteful.

"Maybe it'll help motivate students to keep their grades up," said Kyle Mitchell, an 11th grader at Sapulpa High School, which is participating in the league.

Competitive video gaming has become a large industry backed by tech companies and internet startups. Colleges are offering skilled gamers scholarships, while professional teams are recruiting college students. Mitchell said he hopes to improve his esports skills so he can earn a scholarship to Oklahoma State University.

Jessie Swayze, one of Sapulpa's esports coaches, said the team is a way to invest in students.

"Give the kids who have nothing else to do a reason to come to school," Swayze said. "This is for them."

The league's official season will run from September through May for the 2019-20 academic year. Participating school districts include Broken Arrow, Cleveland, Kingston, Lawton, Putnam City, Salina, Sayre and Wilburton.

Students will compete in a variety of games including Clash Royale, Madden NFL, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Bros.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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