There is no doubt that eSports is quickly growing into an American classic. Platforms like Twitch and Mixer have made it easy for regular home players to watch the pros and learn how to play at a higher level. They have also made it easier for new players to be discovered. In the US, though, the most common recruiting tool for professional sports is through high school competition. Because of that, the announcement that Fortnite is officially recognized as a high school sport could bring that recruiting process to a popular eSports title. Competition will begin in Spring 2020, with infrastructure already in place.
How does a game become an official school sport, though? It is done through an organization called the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the governing body of school sports. Outside of the traditional sports, like football, soccer, and lacrosse, NFHS recognizes Speech, Debate & Theater and eSports as non-traditional sports. eSports works differently from most of the others, in that competition does not take place on a traditional field. To make the process easier for schools, they have partnered with a company called PlayVS, which provides the infrastructure for competition and tournaments.
This brings up a constant topic within our organization - why does the NFHS not recognize robotics as a sport? Videogame titles are fleeting, but engineering is not. FIRST has hosted robotics competitions since 1992 (Maize Craze) and has likely led to more students becoming professionals in the field than all other sports combined. This is because science and engineering are the only sport that any student can go pro. Yet, NFHS does not recognize FIRST or its competitor VEX as an official sport. This distinction prevents students from counting competitions as excused absences and making funding a difficult process. Hopefully, NFHS will fix this because students participating in these activities deserve recognition.