As e-sports leagues continue to burst on the professional scene, the hunt for video-game athletes is becoming increasingly competitive.

Just ask Daphne Jin, a junior at UCLA who last month was awarded a $2,000 scholarship from Atlanta’s KontrolFreek, a company that provides performance gaming gear such as high-grade grips and thumb sticks for controllers, for her contributions to the school’s “League of Legends” team. The game, in which players battle virtually in an online arena, is published by West L.A.’s Riot Games.

It’s all part of a global e-sports market that is expected to hit $463 million this year and $1 billion by 2019, according to research firm Newzoo.

Millions watch e-sports events on live-streaming services such as Twitch, and ESPN has started broadcasting some competitions. More companies have begun taking notice of the sponsorship opportunities.

“More money is going to come into the space from endemic and nonendemic brands,” said Ashish Mistry, chief executive of KontrolFreek.

This fiscal infusion also means there are opportunities to support student-e-sport-athletes. And like many student-athletes, Jin, a physiological studies major, found it hard to balance team and school.

“It’s a lot different than being a regular collegiate athlete,” she said of her experience on the team, which is not officially affiliated with UCLA. “Our program was student led, less regulated. It wasn’t like we had mandated practice times.”

And so despite the acknowledgment from KontrolFreek, she’s since left the team.

– Carter Stoddard

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