Two kids playing

Hunter Bicking watches Hendrix Holman play a video game as part of the second year E-Sports program that Bray-Doyle High School offers. The OSSAA voted to approve recognizing the sport as a competition sport.

An emerging trend of E-Sports is upon the horizon and after an approval from the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) deeming it as a competition sport, Bray-Doyle is ready to compete and become the first school in Stephens County to offer it to their students.

OSSAA hosted a meeting this past Wednesday during which the Board of Directors voted with a 14-0 unanimous decision to start offering E-Sports beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.

According to Cameron Jourdan of The Oklahoman, who reported on the meeting, OSSAA will put together an additional meeting to discuss interest and set up timing for how the first season will look.

Bray-Doyle High School teacher Kyle Holman actually had the idea of setting up an E-Sports team at the school last year and successfully created two teams to play on the Play VS platform.

Announcing their partnership with Play VS platform, OSSAA stated in the meeting  that, according to the report, they have had interest from about 60 member schools with Bray-Doyle among them.

Holman, in his sixth year teaching at Bray-Doyle Public Schools, said he was a little apprehensive at first when hearing about OSSAA getting involved, however those concerns have left.

“When I first heard about it — which was just a couple of days ago when my principal told me that the OSSAA was bringing it up on the meeting — I was concerned about what that was going to be and part of the concern is I know there was an existing Oklahoma E-Sports Association and I looked into that, but it is very not professional for lack of better words,” Holman said.

The very next day, Holman received an e-mail from the OSSAA announcing the partnership with the platform they are familiar with in Play VS. It will offer different games including the one the school is familiar with, Holman said.

Bray-Doyle’s team has gotten really good at the game of Smite, which is an online third-person multiplayer game that is cross platformed to play on several different systems.

Holman said hearing about Smite’s inclusion lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. He’s excited to represent his school in the league.

“My concern was they lean more toward Oklahoma E-Sports which would omit Smite and they didn’t want to do that,” Holman said. “This morning I got the message that they had partnered with Play VS and Smite was included now so I am more optimistic going toward that and I’m excited to see … what the OSSAA plans are.”

Two members of last year’s team return n senior Tyler Bandy and sophomore Hunter Bicking and they have gotten better over the summer playing Smite.

“I think it is cool that people are starting to take E-Sports seriously and not just like a club,” Bicking said. “Last year was really hectic and we didn’t know much about the game really and we got into it and thought we had something down, but we had no clue what we were doing … This year will be a good year and we’ve got some new kids coming up and I think they look really good and take the game really seriously and we are trying to win games.”

Bandy, who also plays basketball for Bray-Doyle High School, was in agreement with Bicking and knows this is a great avenue to get involved.

“I think it is cool that we can compete — like maybe we can get a state title, more so kind of like regular sports,” Bandy said. “E-Sports is fun and it is cool to play sports that involves videogames at school. I think it builds community so that kids that don’t really enjoy physical sports can come have fun and play computer games. Maybe they like technology more and that is more of their comfort zone to come in and play video games, and I think it is a good thing for kids.”

Holman, when he pitched the idea to the district last year, said one of the things he mentioned was how colleges are starting to offer scholarships and feels this is a great way to represent Bray-Doyle.

“When I saw the possibility of the program I actually doubted that it would be substantial to grab on at a high school level. But when I got to looking, Cameron University offers up to 12 tuition waivers so basically 12 scholarships for their team,” Holman said. “I believe down in Durant they are offering E-Sports scholarships as well as Ada and there several schools offering scholarships so that is a cornerstone. Colleges are offering scholarships for this stuff so I think we should grab a hold of it and I don’t think Marlow has one, or Central High has one, Duncan might have one but I don’t know of any of these schools that have a E-Sports team. I love my school at Bray and I want us to do something different and in reality, we don’t always do that best in sports and we didn’t do the best in E-Sports but we did do something so that is a huge accomplishment.”

Once details of the upcoming season are announced, Bray-Doyle will look to compete in hopes of getting to compete with Oklahoma schools for the first time.

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