Tucker Harley

Western Hills senior Tucker Harley will be part of Campbellsville University's esports team next year. (Linda Younkin)

Esports have come to Frankfort’s schools.

Frankfort High fielded its first esports team in the fall, and Western Hills senior Tucker Harley has signed to play esports at Campbellsville University.

Esports, short for electronic sports, is team-based competition with specific rules set in the arena of a video game, according to the website for PlayVS, which provides the infrastructure and platform for amateur esports.

Esports have been sanctioned by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, which offers state championships in the sport for the fall and spring seasons.

FHS had seven students play in the fall season, and there are 10 signed up for the spring season.

“The biggest benefit I’ve seen is getting the kids to work together and communicate,” Frankfort coach Arlene Crabtree said. “They have to work together.

“Most gamers typically don’t play anything else, and this gives them a way to be part of a team.”

It also gives them a chance to earn a scholarship.

Harley started playing video games when he was 5 years old. He became interested after watching his father play Pac Man.

Western Hills doesn’t have an esports team, but Harley was touring Campbellsville University when he found out the school did field a team.

“I thought, ‘I like games, so that’s good. Maybe I can get a scholarship,’” he said.

Harley received a scholarship after reaching out to the school and is the first student from the Franklin County Schools to earn an esports scholarship.

Frankfort High hasn’t had a student receive a scholarship for esports.

There is a chance WHHS could field a team in the future.

“A Student Interest Inventory for KHSAA is required every two years,” WHHS Athletic Director Don Miller said. “We just completed ours and will look at our school data results and go from there if we have enough interest.”

Franklin County doesn’t have an esports team either.

“We tried to start one last year and attempted during the pilot period for the KHSAA, but it wasn’t successful,” FCHS Athletic Director Tracy Spickard said, “and the interest hasn’t been there this year.”

The spring season starts Monday, and the regular season runs through April 13.

Frankfort has one game per week, on Thursday, with PlayVS making the schedule.

To Crabtree, the sport offers several benefits.

“We’ve had coaches watch our kids,” she said, “and a lot offer scholarships to come to their school and play.

“People like Amazon are using drones and different things, and they’re looking at gamers because of their hand-eye coordination.”

The drawback can be the perception of the sport and its participants.

“People think it’s kids playing in their parents’ basement, sitting in the dark,” Crabtree said. “I have to defend the sport a lot of times.”

Harley has run into that perception.

“It depends on the person,” he said. “If it’s someone like me, they think it’s cool. A lot of people play games. I have a co-worker who thinks it’s stupid when I could be outside working.

“I’m getting free money for college, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

What would Harley like people to know about gaming?

“It’s pretty fun, it’s harder than you think, and you can’t just pick it up and be good at it,” he said. “I’ve put hundreds of hours into it.”

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