CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with West Texas A&M University announced Thursday that the university added a new coach to lead its eight varsity-level esports teams and that the university will offer scholarship opportunities for esports athletes.

According to a news release from the university, Levi Zemanuel, a recent graduate from West Texas A&M University, was recently hired as the team’s first coach. Zemanuel, an Amarillo native, said he hopes to impart lessons on the participating athletes, and help them hone their gaming skills.

“I want to help our athletes improve in their studies and as people so that, when they leave WT, they make a difference in their communities,” he said in the release.

Buff Gaming began as a student-led video game competition organization in 2017, according to the release. In August 2020, some students began competing at varsity levels. Esports at the university is now considered a club sport, similar to bowling, rodeo along with trap and skeet shooting.

“This is a highly competitive area that continues to grow, and we knew we needed a coach for them to lean on,” Justin Cornelsen, the university’s director of recreational sports, said in the release. “This will help keep the players organized, put them in a team environment and allow them structured practice times to develop their skills.”

According to the release, teams have two-hour practices twice a week, with students competing in tournaments for games including “Call of Duty,” “Rocket League,” “League of Legends” and “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.”

With the scholarship funding available, the release said that Zemanuel and Cornelsen will be able to “actively recruit top esports athletes (throughout the Region 16 Educational Service Center) and elsewhere.” Officials with Region 16 said they are encouraging more Texas Panhandle-area schools to start their own teams.

“Schools and universities have been trying to figure out how to integrate esports into instruction in the same way that UIL sports are integrated,” Les Montgomery, Region 16’s technology support manager, said in the release. “Esports are a great way for our children to connect to the ever-increasing technology that shapes our world. Students in Region 16 are helping to design the future.”