Competitive gaming, known as “esports” for electronic sports, is on the rise around the country. The Pottsboro Public Library and Pottsboro High School will soon be teaming up with Austin College to provide an esports league for Pottsboro students.

The league is being made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to expand the library’s technology offerings. Pottsboro Library Director Dianne Connery said it’s going to bring access to technology to the community not currently available.

Austin College launched its own esports team last year, and now those students are going to have a chance to mentor a younger crowd entering the field.

“The Pottsboro Library is a non-traditional library,” Connery said. “We really pride ourselves on technology initiatives and reaching out to the community to see what the community needs.”

The program will officially begin Oct. 1 with a kickoff event Sept. 14 with a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament as a part of the public awareness campaign. The team will also be streaming matches to Twitch, a video streaming service geared towards competitive video games. The primary games the team will be playing are Overwatch and Rocket League, two highly popular games in the online competitive arena.

Connery said there are a lot of homes that do not have access to high-speed internet in Pottsboro. She said the library will begin offering a much faster speed than it currently does as a benefit of the new program.

“Esports is exploding in popularity,” Connery said. “Colleges across the country are offering esports scholarships. In some high schools it is treated like a regular sport. There are attendance and grade requirements. There is also a culture around fighting toxic behavior.”

Pottsboro was chosen out of 24 libraries around the country to be in a program that will get kids ready for life at high school. Connery said the program is aimed at the middle school level. She said by the time students have reached high school they typically are set in their ways. The library will be offering the esports to high school students while providing access to all who are interested at certain times.

“This teaches a lot of critical thinking and problem solving skills in an interesting way,” Connery said about the esports program. “Kids are already into video games. It is more about convincing parents that it is worth while. It is about using something to teach them digital and technology skills but also how to collaborate. It teaches how to think fast on your feed.”

She said the games are recorded just like a football match. Then the students watch the footage to see what they can learn from their performance.

The students will be matched up with teams from all around the world. Connery said it will provide them exposure to other cultures outside of Texas.

There will be two aspects to the program, the first is the team.

There will be tryouts to get on the team, and the library is working with the high school to find interested parties to join the team. Connery said there will be students from Austin College who are familiar with esports mentoring the high school students. There is going to be an entire ecosystem built around the program. Some students will handle marketing and promotions while others will work on event planning, shout casting, video editing and fundraising. There are a lot of aspects associated with the program that go beyond video games.

In addition to the team, the library will begin opening on Saturdays exclusively to offer members of the general public access to the computer equipment to train on the games. She said it will be like a scrimmage time open to the public. The side benefit of the upgrade is an increase in internet speed to the library. Connery said currently the library has an 18 Mb speed but after the upgrade will offer 500 Mb speeds.

“Libraries really are a place people can spend time when they are not at work or home,” Connery said. “We are where people in the community connect with other people.”