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Have Your Say: Are Video Games Too Much of a Distraction?

The intersection of sports and video games is stronger than ever.

With the rise of eSports, gaming is now covered right alongside traditional sports on both ESPN.com and on ESPN broadcasts. The NBA has even established its own league for the “NBA2K” series of video games. Real-life teams have a counterpart in the eSports league, even mirroring the NBA Draft to acquire players. But some are skeptical of this rise in popularity, especially for the athletes playing in real life.

Many athletes are gamers themselves. One of the most popular games, not just among athletes but seemingly amongst all gamers, is “Fortnite.” Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Trevor May had his own “Fortday with Trevor May” during a September Twins home game. He also uses the streaming service Twitch to play in front of a live audience.

May says that in the offseason, he might game 16 hours per day. And playing “Fortnite” scratches a similar competitive itch to pitching in an MLB game.

May is far from alone. Ahead of this summer’s NHL Draft, team executives were asking prospects if they played the game, and even if they were addicted to it. It’s not an entirely silly question. There are reports of players at the junior hockey level playing the game in marathon sessions, affecting their play on the ice due to lack of sleep and preparation.

The Vancouver Canucks made headlines this week as they outright banned the game during the season. Some NHL players admitted that the game could be a distraction.

“Our jobs are to play hockey, and we need to be prepared to do that every single day,” said Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. “We know what we need to do to get ready for a hockey game, and it's not playing ‘Fortnite’ till 2 a.m.”

Others downplayed video games as a factor.

“I don't think ‘Fortnite’s’ the problem,” Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman said. “I think that you can get addicted to anything. If you're sitting there playing ‘Fortnite’ for 12 hours a day, it's probably not the best thing for you, but if you play it like a normal person — one or two hours a day — then you're fine.”

With young athletes so interested in video games, this is likely an issue that is only going to become more prevalent. Should coaches and parents take steps to make sure nothing gets in the way of an athlete’s job on the field?

What’s your take?

Take 1: Ban all potential distractions

Professional players have curfews, they have personal conduct clauses in the contracts and they have team rules that they can be fined or suspended for violating. Banning video games is no different. These rules help ensure that everyone is focused on the common goal of the team and nothing else. It doesn’t have to be one size fits all. Maybe some teams don’t have a problem. But if a coach sees a potential distraction for his or her team, it is their duty to take action.

Take 2: Games aren’t the issue

There is a fine line between doing what’s best for the team and taking away a player’s individual freedom. If a player isn’t performing on the field, then a coach should take steps to figure out what’s going on. If they have a video game addiction, just like any addiction, then get them help. But the solution isn’t just to ban video games for the entire team. Part of coaching is managing individual players and making sure they’re taken care of.

So should video games be banned before they can become a problem? Or is banning games just a reactionary move?

Have your say in the comments below.

From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier

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