GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Esports is becoming more popular every year, and it’s evident at East Kentwood High School.

“It really started getting mainstream probably about 10 years ago, but even then, compared to now, it’s night and day where there are world championships that have more people watching the stream than the Super Bowl,” Tyler Dixon, esports coach, said.

The program started in 2017 with just one team for one semester. Each year, more teams, kids and games have been added. The program now runs all school year.

“From where we were to where we are now, just a huge explosion. I think we’re bigger than the football team. The marching band might have us,” Dixon said. “We might hit 200 sign-ups and well over 100 kids competing. It’s going to be a mammoth.”

Last month, USA Today recognized the program as one of the best in the country.

Students believe being a part of the program develops their character and even helps them build relationships.

“I wouldn’t have met half of these people if it weren’t for the esports club,” Landon Saavedra said.

There is a group of students who are controlling the future of esports at EK. They’re involved in a pilot class this semester to build a curriculum. They also learn lessons to help on and off the screen.

“We’re just learning about games and how to run and how to make a career out of in the field and things to make sure that our mental health and hand dexterity as its peak,” Saavedra said.”

Big changes are coming to pave the way for the sport at the school.

A new space will be built tentatively next summer. The program’s current space and an adjoining classroom will transform into a state-of-the-art facility.

“I’m excited for future generations where they get to test it out, maybe improve in their gameplay and strategy and just expand the club overall,” Nhen Ngyuen said.

For many of them, esports is the only activity they’re involved in at the school, but it’s making a difference.

“I’m just grateful for the support we’ve gotten and glad the kids have an opportunity and a chance and place to come and feel like they belong to the school outside of the classroom,” Dixon said.

He hopes the new space will be completed before students return to school in the fall.