With fall sports cancelled, Northwest Arctic Borough schools look to form eSports teams – Kotzebue Broadcasting Inc.

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East High School students (from left to right) Tom Cabanilla, Dragon Lee, and Lorry Lee play the video game League of Legends online against Petersburg High School during the first sanctioned eSports state championship playoff. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

With fall sports canceled in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, officials say they’re moving to get students involved in the emerging realm of competitive eSports.

“Kids will be able to form teams where they’ll compete in two sanctioned sports under ASAA, Alaska School Activities Association,” said Brett Slaathaug, activities coordinator for the school district.

One of the two sanctioned sports is Rocket League, a video game where players play soccer using rocket-powered vehicles. The other is League of Legends, a game where players control avatar-like “champions” and work together to destroy an enemy team’s base. 

ASAA began conducting competitive eSports last year in Alaska schools, with 46 schools competing in the inaugural season. Slaathaug says the district is hopeful that students will gain benefits they’d normally get from cross-country running and volleyball.

“We know that activities drive a lot of desire to come to school every single day, get the homework done, keep the grades up, keep the behavior good,” Slaathaug said. “It just helps in every which way.”

With much of the state’s most populated communities currently in the red zone with respect to COVID-19 spread, Slaathaug says the district doesn’t want to risk the safety of

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