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Manchester esports team battles in video game tournaments

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MANCHESTER -- Esports is the fast-paced world of organized, competitive video gaming that is quickly become a billion dollar industry.

At ManchesterHigh School, their esport team is busy training. The MHS esports team is one of 13 official teams in Connecticut that is now sanctioned and governed by CAS-CIAC.

"When people think of esports -- I think a lot of people don’t think of it as an actual sport, but it’s more like a mental sport, like chess or checkers. You're making these big decisions; you train to play at these high level games like traditional sports,” explains MHS esports captain Antonio Valdez.

The team's coach, Sam Warner admits that even he was a little skeptical at first, but says the esports team has all the elements of sports competition.

"I see teamwork and leadership. I see them planning and working together and stuff like that. I see the competitiveness in them," said Warner, "The competitiveness is actually the coolest part.  They take it very seriously, they’re very intense about it, they want to win -- and to me that’s what involves a sport, leadership, and competition."

Coach Warner knew all the kids on the team from freshman science class, but they were quiet and kept to themselves. However, Warner says that changed once they were part of the esports team.

Last season, the only game played was "League of Legends" which is a team game, so no single person could win.

The team has to strategize and work together to get the win. They went up against Woodstock in the state championship after beating them in the regular season, but lost in that final game.

The championship was hosted by PlayVS, a national company that hosts and gives high school teams a platform for competition. These competitions can lead to a lot of money in the form or scholarships or college.

Currently there are 200 colleges and universities offering almost 10 million dollars in scholarships. More than 60 colleges have varsity esports programs, many of them division one schools.

Connecticut is one of the first states in the nation to recognize and regulate esports as an official sport.

"It may not have a ball but it has all the other aspects that go into athletics. There's the spirit of competition and creative students who are innovative critical thinking problem solvers," explains Glen Lungarini, the executive director at CAS-CIAC.

The first season in Connecticut involved 13 high school teams.

This upcoming spring season kicks off in just a few weeks with 30 teams involved. Lungarini expects half of all high schools in the state will have an esports team in just a few years.

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