Monday is the first day of the fall esports season for the Oklahoma eSports League and local schools said more kids are signing up.
Union Public Schools had 345 students try out for the team this year and other schools, like Sapulpa, said they’ve seen growth over the past few years as well.
"Online is good but it's just better to play with actual people,” said Sapulpa High School sophomore Jase Caldwell.
This is Caldwell's second year on Sapulpa's esports team.
Caldwell plays Super Smash Ultimate and is hoping to make it to playoffs again this year, but he said the best part is having his teammates as friends.
"It feels more of a friend atmosphere because it's a bunch of friends practicing with each other,” said Caldwell.
The Oklahoma eSports League was developed in 2019 and 55 schools are now involved. The OSSAA just recently voted to make it a sanctioned sport.
“We've definitely had a lot of interest,” said Sapulpa esports Coach & IT Systems Administrator, Jessie Swayze. “Getting things set up with OSSAA taking over is going to help a lot as well but I think the numbers will continue to grow each year."
“We get standings, we get rankings, everything like a traditional sport,” said Union Executive Director of Technology Todd Borland.
Borland said he's also seen different kinds of kids come together through esports.
"Esports lets them all come together, they talk, they walk down the hall, they say hello," said Borland.
Union and Sapulpa also do grade checks like another sport so if students aren't passing, they aren't playing.
“OESL and OSSAA both have grade stipulations as well as every other board mandated requirement,” said Swayze.
Schools aren't separated based on size, so all teams play on the same level and students can even get scholarships to play in college.
“We had smaller schools win state last year,” said Borland. “If you're good at a game and you only need two people on a team it's pretty easy to make a good team."
The fall season starts Monday and runs through the first week of December.
Teams typically play on Tuesdays but can move games and matches around to work with students’ schedules if they play on other teams. The spring season starts in January.
For more information, visit the Oklahoma eSports League website here.