Why esports?

If the sun refuse to shine

Students develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, respected, included, supported and see themselves as important members of a community. I knew esports has the power to reach those students who normally slip through the extracurricular cracks, so when my good friends, Jeff and Elizabeth Wofford, approached me about starting an esports club and team at school this year, I didn’t hesitate, because I believe that helping students connect and belong at school improves overall school culture. 

I don’t mind, I don’t mind

We started with weekly club meetings after school in my classroom, using curriculum provided by the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), which focused on teamwork, sportsmanship, game etiquette, career opportunities, and more. The rest of the time was spent playing a variety of video games and gaming platforms. One senior told me that he had never been in a school club before, much less on a school team, and he thanked me for esports. The Woffords are homeschool parents, so they brought their son and daughter and also invited other homeschool families, providing an opportunity for homeschool and traditional seated students to come together. Our club continued to grow and attract students throughout the school year, and then our League of Legends team practice began in January. 

“I’ve never been on a school team or in a club before. Thank you, Mrs. Steinbrink!”

Talen, 2020 senior

If the mountains fell in the sea

Not long after practices began, I invited our new Resource Officer, James, to visit because he was quite good at this game, and he joined Liz as assistant coach. Jeff became the head coach, and my role became that of general manager, which meant that I facilitated the matches with the opposing school and handled all of the official communications once the season began. I asked the District Technology Director to procure twenty-five computers that could run the games and handle the requirements, and then he found us a room we could use as an arena. Our inaugural team finished 27th out of 60 in our division, and we have big goals for next year. Families attended our matches, colleges began to recruit my team, and the students found their school community, their voice and strengths.

“Esports has really helped me to recognize that I can’t be the best at everything. It’s helped me to let my teammates help with things I’m not as good at and help my teammates with things they might need help with!”

Joe, 2020 sophomore

let it be, it ain’t me

Those relationships extend beyond the school too. One senior senior said, “Esports isn’t just video games to us. We don’t play games just to play. We play for the teamwork, the friendship, and the late night laughs. We play to bond together. It doesn’t matter what game it is. We play it for each other.” 

Alright, ‘cos I got my own world to look through

Throughout our school closure due to COVID19, most of the team and Jeff played together online. That connectedness, though virtual, helped them all through the school closure. The impact of esports transcended our school by providing an opportunity for students to find a community both within and beyond our school setting, a safe place where all could truly belong.

And I ain’t gonna copy you

If you don’t have an esports club or team, I encourage you to consider it. With the curriculum and resources by NASEF, or even through your own state’s esports education association, you can host a club, if not a team too. Everyone wants to belong, and esports is an incredibly powerful way to reach kids.

Heading titles are partial lyrics by Jimi Hendrix’s If 6 Was 9 © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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