NAECAD Interview: David Holtsford, Alabama High School Athletic Association

November 9, 2021

The Alabama High School Athletic Association is the main governing body for interscholastic athletics and activities programs for Alabama public schools. With over a dozen sponsored sports played throughout the state, the AHSAA recently introduced esports to its catalog. This provides students a new avenue to engage in interscholastic activities for their schools.

The NAECAD (National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors) interviewed David Holtsford, Coordinator of Digital Media in the AHSAA. Holtsford gives an overview of the organization, how people are educated about esports, and what they want to accomplish.

What is the current state of the Alabama High School Athletic Association?

David Holtsford: The current state right now is we’re in our Fall season. It’s going pretty smoothly so far. We have seven games that are offered to the students, with the most popular being Rocket League, League of Legends, Madden, Splatoon, Super Smash Bros.(I grew up playing Super Smash and Madden), FIFA, and SMITE.

In the current state, we’ve had about 40-50 schools signed up throughout the time that we offered esports, which we are in our fifth semester.

And how long are these tournaments? Do they last until the Christmas break?

David Holtsford: For this fall, the preseason went from September 13th to October 1st, the regular season started on October 4th and finishes November 19th. The [students] will then have a 10-day break before the playoffs start on November 29th.

How is the AHSAA educating parents and school districts about esports?

David Holtsford: Everything runs through PlayVS and they have been great to work with. They have webinars for coaches, students, and parents so we try to push those to them as far as we can and encourage coaches to get their students involved and sign up. A lot of times, we might meet an older coach and need to show them the ropes a little more, because they wouldn’t know how all the technology works. Even so, it teaches them how to properly manage it.

We’ve also had PlayVs come to our summer conference. They have a table set up every year and they try to get coaches to flow through, talk to them, and answer any questions they have, and things like that. The conference has over 4,000 high school coaches and school administrators through the week.

What does the AHSAA want to accomplish in the next 3 years?

David Holtsford: Really, just adding more games, more students, more schools--just seeing how far it can grow. You see college programs starting up and parents realize ‘My kids play video games and now there are opportunities to pay for their education through it?’ So you know, it’s really about the education of esports and seeing how much it can grow.

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