CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There’s a new breed of athlete on campuses in Charlotte and across the country.
They’re being recruited to play video games.
It’s called esports, and there’s big money involved. One local college is even offering scholarships to play.
For years, children have been told to stay active and not play too many video games.
However, a growing trend might have some parents rethinking that notion.
As gaming is becoming more popular, some colleges are getting in on the action by creating esports teams with scholarships.
Catawba College is one of the schools leading the pack.
Gidd Sasser coordinated an esports team at Catawba. They are played online video games against other teams.
Sasser showed Channel 9 the state-of-the-art arena under construction for what he calls the new breed of student-athlete.
”These student-athletes are doing the same thing,” Sasser said. “They get up, do their homework. They start their practices a.m., p.m. Seeing athletic trainers to make sure they're staying in good shape, dieticians, no different than if they were on football or baseball field. They're just playing on a computer, instead of out there.”
Catawba College is recruiting students to play on their new esports teams, offering scholarships just like traditional sports.
They play games like Fortnight and Overwatch.
Currently, they say 10 students have signed a letter-of-intent to play.
“It’s not just online. I can travel and have traveled to meet up with families and kids,” Sasser said.
Nationwide, there's about $9 million up for grabs in esports scholarship money.
Even some local high schools, including Garinger and Mallard Creek, have teams.
In south Charlotte, the Command Post Gaming Center is a gaming lounge that caters to student and professional gamers.
Josh Richardson, the CEO of Charlotte eSports, which practices at the center on Pineville-Matthews Road, said he expects the online field will become just as popular as football.
“This is going to rival traditional sports?” Channel 9 anchor John Paul asked.
“Yes. Absolutely. There is no question about that,” Richardson said.
Big names like Stephen Curry and Michael Jordan have recently invested millions to sponsor esports teams.
At Catawba College, Sasser said college esports will be an equalizer, and smaller schools will be able to compete with much larger universities with millions on the line in endorsements, sponsorships and broadcast rights.
“Anybody can get involved in some ways,” Sasser said. “People who can't play contact sports, they can now compete on the same level, same environment.”
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