Esports, online streaming keep AZ high schools up-to-date

It isn’t always easy to keep up with this rapidly-evolving digital age, but the governing body for high school sports in Arizona is making the effort to keep up with the changing landscape.

Not long ago, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) began making available online streaming of high school football games to sports fans in this state.  The service, which is provided by subscription through the National Federation of High Schools Network, gives fans who couldn’t get to the games the option of watching it in real time from the comfort of their homes.

The quality of transmissions has improved considerably, thanks to improvements in the technology and equipment, and thanks to those improvements viewership continues to increase.

Each “Game of the Week” during football season is carried on the AZPreps365 website.  Last season, the subscription-free broadcast of the opener between Centennial High School and Casteel High reportedly drew an audience of nearly 1,700 that were able to watch the match-up between reigning state champions.  That set a record, and this year’ viewership is expected to continue that trend.

This online streaming of big games is also good for the players since it gives college scouts one more viewing opportunity in their search for high school talent.

Yet another way the AIA is keeping up with the changing landscape in this age of video gaming is the addition of esports to the menu of competitive sports options among the Arizona high schools.

The AIA had hoped to be able to insert an esports season into last year’s spring sports schedule, but found that the time it was taking to make all the necessary technical arrangements and hardware requirements would mean moving the inaugural season to the 2019-20 school year.

After an announcement last August that esports would be added to the sports calendar, organizers tried to get the program up and running for a late February debut.  But instead, the AIA announced at the start of March that the first season would have to be postponed to make sure that every school in the state had an opportunity to participate.

The inaugural season will offer competition in either Overwatch or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.  Additional games could be added later, says the AIA, dependent on being able to secure the rights to other titles.  The governing body has partnered with HSEL and Legacy Esports to take care of registration, scheduling, and hosting the servers used by the participating schools.  HSEL is currently running programs for high schools in all 50 states and Canada.

The addition of an esports program at the high school level means that those students who don’t participate in the ‘traditional’ sports will now have a chance to compete for a state title.  And that’s a win-win for the AIA and the students.