Electronic sports, or competitive video games, may not have the same physical demands as traditional athletics, but students’ emphasis on the common qualities of teamwork, spirit sportsmanship and leadership has led schools across the country to race to embrace the nation’s fastest growing sport.
Esports programs have spread rapidly to high schools across the country in recent years and are reaching student populations that have not previously been tapped by after-school programs of all kinds, creating larger and more inclusive campus communities. and more successful students.
For Chance Mazzia, coach of the Rocky Mountain High School esports team in Colorado, the idea of establishing a competitive gaming program for his students is a dream come true. “I’ve always loved video games and connecting with people through them. I wish I had that opportunity when I was in high school.
As Mazzia discovered, video games do more than just unite cliques; they provide an accessible competition venue for students who wish – but cannot – participate in traditional sports.
“What I’ve learned along the way is that esports is an opportunity for everyone, and we’ve had a lot of different types of students: kids who come from different countries, kids with disabilities , all of whom can participate and compete at a high level,” said Mazzia.
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) has been tracking student engagement in esports programs since the state signed on with PlayVS – the NFHS network partner platform that hosts college esports in the United States. — and Rhonda Blanford-Green, former CHSAA commissioner, says the results show greater integration of campus communities and increased student engagement at all levels.
“I think the numbers and the data show what this means for our children, which is continued growth and continued engagement with our member schools,” Blanford-Green said. “So you see this collective mix of kids who might not have come together any other way if this opportunity hadn’t been given.”
“Having CHSAA support esports in Colorado is a huge boost to our legitimacy. It brings it to an understandable level for administration and athletic directors,” Mazzia said.
The low maintenance cost of video games compared to traditional sports equipment has also made esports ideal for all budget considerations. Darrell Wilson, assistant director of activities for the Virginia High School League (VHSL), says most schools’ library computers are already capable of doing the job.
“If you think esports is a heavy hitter in terms of funding, consider it carefully and extensively. Using your facilities and equipment, you have what you need there,” Wilson said. A large number of teachers, parents and even volunteers have already made an impact in the relatively short time that VHSL has partnered with PlayVS.”
Wilson expects esports to become a staple of the state’s sports scene in the near future. “I really feel like we’re on an upward trajectory with the number of schools participating. So like football, debate and basketball, esports will be there with League of Legends and Rocket League.
It’s not just adults leading the charge, either. At the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Arkansas, a student founded the esports program. “One of my kids made it his community project – three years ago now – to get involved in esports and start the school program,” says Burl Sniff, who leads the esports program at Don Tyson.
Anthony White was only in ninth grade when he decided to bring college esports to his school. Today, he is the captain of Don Tyson’s League of Legends team. “I’ve been playing video games since I was three years old and I’ve always had a passion for competition. When I heard esports was an option at my school, I did everything I could to make it a reality,” says White.
Coach Sniff says the broader student body has embraced the program. “This year, we asked our school administration to organize an esports pep rally,” Sniff said. “We played at another school, sold concessions and installed a giant HD screen on the cafeteria wall. The kids were playing it live and there were a lot of people in the audience cheering. It was a great success.
With a low barrier to entry and negligible infrastructure requirements, esports is an easy win for students and administrators. As school programs across the country become more technologically integrated, the applications for a browser-based after-school program will become more obvious and attractive.
School esports has made tremendous strides in attracting students from all walks of life, including those who would otherwise have been overlooked by well-meaning programs that nonetheless failed to attract them.