TAMPA, Fla. — Even in a cast, 14-year-old Zion Woolridge has blinding speed with a gaming controller.

“When I have free time, I always play,” he said.

What You Need To Know

  • The Florida High School Athletic Association is discussing whether to sanction esports as an official high school sport

  • During a board of directors meeting in April, the members said they are still a long way away from approving or denying the addition, but want to look further into the possibility

  • One board member requested that they survey high schools in Florida and do a study on the impact excessive screen time would have on students who participate

When you think of a typical 14-year-old, that may not be entirely a surprise, but Woolridge Is not typical when it comes to video games like Fortnite.

“If I had to rank myself solo against other people, I would be in like this top hundred for North America,” he said.

At just 14, Woolridge is one of the best at playing this battle royal-style video game, and something that started as a hobby is already earning him money.

“Over the past six months, I have made $700 from official tournaments, $500 from third-party tournaments, and from here, I’ve made about $3,000,” he said.

On top of being one of the best soccer players for his age in Florida, he’s dominating local Fortnite tournaments and thriving in national ones.

It’s partly why he comes to the Esports Players Club in Tampa to practice and hone his skills.

“He competes on a worldwide scale and earns money doing it,” said Esports Players Club owner Alex Matzkin.

Matzkin played collegiate football at Georgetown University, and said he sees the parallels between that sport and esports, even if it’s a different skill set.

“A lot of parents are still kind of surprised that this is a real thing,” Matzkin said. “But, you know, there are colleges across the country that are giving scholarships to kids that play esports.”

He said that's why he isn’t surprised the Florida High School Athletic Association is considering sanctioning esports to be the newest sport for high schoolers.

“The schools are obviously starting to pay attention to this space, and there’s a lot of kids that love to participate in these programs," Matzkin said. "And again, earn college scholarships."

Woolridge said the amount of money being given out by colleges for esports scholarships is encouraging for gamers.

“This is really great and could be jobs for the future,” he said.

And he said his parents are coming around to the idea that being a gamer can create a legitimate revenue stream.

“They really didn’t understand it at first,” Woolridge said. “But ever since I started making money, they started learning how it works and stuff, and it’s been good.”

In the meantime, he and the rest of the 8- to 14-year-olds at Esports Players Club will enjoy competing against each other for bragging rights and a bit more practice in Florida’s newest potential high school sport.

During the FHSAA’s April 22 meeting, the association’s board of directors said they’re in the early stages of deciding whether to add esports.

They said they plan on surveying high schools in the state while also looking into the effects of added screen time for students who participate.