SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – It’s not what you’d expect to see at a school.
Student’s gathered around a TV playing video games.
“My mom was shocked,” says Johnson High School Junior Zekiah Floyd.
But it isn’t what it looks like.
In fact, here at Johnson High School it’s a recognized sport.
“E-Sports is a relatively new aspect of athletics. A lot of people look at it and say, ‘oh, it’s video games.’ But it’s a multi-million-dollar industry right now,” says Head E-Sports Coach Caledon Smith.
Smith started Chatham County’s first ever public high school E-Sports team three years ago during the height of the pandemic.
“A lot of our sports, like I was coaching soccer at the time I had to shut that down. I thought, ‘let’s do a transition.’ I went to Georgia High School Association and they had E-Sports. I said, ‘well, that’s interesting let’s look into that.’”
And to the surprise of many, the team was formed.
“I never thought that E-Sports would be a thing in school, but apparently it’s a thing now,” says sophomore Thien Nguyen.
Giving students a place to turn their hobby, into much more.
“Honestly I just love playing video games and I love competing and I thought the E-Sports team something to bond with, like to fit in, and it delivered,” says sophomore Tarael Grant.
Offering a welcome home to all gamers.
“It’s really not hard. We’re all playing the same game having fun. It doesn’t really matter,” said the teams only girl sophomore Tea Anderson.
Like their fellow student athletes, they compete in regular competitions.
“The heart racing, blood pumping, it’s very scary,” explains Grant.
Even traditional athletes, like Thomas Robinson who played football and runs track, say it requires a similar skill set to win in this arena, if not more.
“The thing that’s similar is the IQ needed to play E-Sports as in football for instance, you need a high IQ to play football. It’s kind of the same thing?”
“You think this is harder?” WTOC asked.
“Yeah, honestly,” responded Robinson.
While they know their sport is a bit different the Atom Smashers are currently ranked 5th in the state and they’re hoping their community will embrace them.
“We’re young people in the community so I feel like that’s important. You gotta support the people coming up,” sophomore David Washington says.
But win or lose, this team, and this sport is changing the game for their present, and future.
“Being apart of the E-Sports team is like being part of a family of people exactly like you,” said junior Isaac McDowell.
“I was told I could get a scholarship for it, something I really had a passion for. It was fun to me. So, something I had a passion for, and I could get credit for it was definitely something I wanted to do,” adds sophomore David Lawson.
The number five ranked Johnson High will take on Fayette County Wednesday at 4 p.m. and you can watch them compete live on the school’s YouTube channel.
Click here to watch.
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