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Esports see big jump in popularity at Omaha metro area schools

Posted at 10:31 PM, Oct 05, 2022

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Some teams compete on the court, others on the gridiron, but the newest team at Westside high school is stepping into the virtual world to take on their competition.

"It's basic soccer ideas. Score the ball, hit the ball into their net. But there are different ideas and mechanics with it. There is a boost and you can go faster and do different things with the boost," said Daniel Ngyuen, a competitor on Omaha Westside's Esports team.

Esports first started popping up at Nebraska schools just a few years ago.

At first, most teams were at the collegiate level but over the last few years the sport has exploded in popularity and dozens of Nebraska high schools have created their own teams.

"I know for other schools in Nebraska, we have gone from just 20 or 30 schools offering Esports just a few years ago to over 70," said Chase Tonkinson, the head coach for Westside's Esports team.

Tonkinson compares his coaching experience with that of a track and field coach.

His Esports athletes play a number of different games, from sports games to shooters and even virtual card games. They compete with schools across Nebraska and across the country.

"Over here we have one of our smash teams. Both teams are actually playing schools in Missouri today, one in St. Louis and one in Troy Missouri. And our Valorant team over here is playing a high school in Indiana," said Tonkinson.

The area's biggest district, Omaha Public Schools, has recently made plans to hire its own part-time Esports coach.

"Each coach can help them better expand their game and know exactly what to do in each situation," said James Gurung, a National Champion Hearthstone player on Westside's team.

Despite being so new the Esports athletes at Westside, who have already won several state championships and even a national championship say their team gets the same respect as traditional sports and continues to grow.

"Don't be scared of being an outcast for being someone who plays Esports. I am friends with a lot of football players, basketball players and soccer players and they all say it's pretty cool and if they had the time and were good enough they'd definitely do esports players so don't be afraid," said Ngyuen.

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