An educator offers insight on some of the best lessons to emerge from a scholastic esports team

3 things I learned from my middle school esports team

An educator offers insight on some of the best lessons to emerge from a scholastic esports team

In September 2018, my school district approved the creation of my FH Knights esports team–the first middle school esports team in the country.

Over the last two years, I’ve learned a lot about running an esports team and the value of esports in education.

Esports is a great way to teach soft skills

Just like traditional sports, esports is a great way to help students develop soft skills. As students are playing, esports coaches can incorporate leadership, communication, and teamwork training right into practice.

Related content: 4 ways to futureproof school networks for esports

Teaching soft skills is just the beginning. The value of teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) through esports is proven, but it isn’t new. Mindfulness and SEL training are being done at the collegiate and pro level, so it is only natural that it is trickling down to the high school and middle school level.

Some of the more advanced esports programs are starting to teach how nutrition, sleep, and exercise can improve performance and how players can avoid becoming triggered, playing tilted, and handle toxicity when gaming.

Esports builds a sense of belonging

Before joining our esports team, most of my players had no home/school connection. They didn’t play sports or participate in clubs. Mostly, my kids went home after school and played video games.

The best part about starting my esports team is watching my kids develop a sense of belonging. The community I’ve built around esports at my school has given students a new social group. Instead of playing alone, my kids generally game together outside of school. After our matches, they often go out for a slice of pizza together.

It is the sense of belonging that is esports’ greatest strength, because the kids who may need to feel like part of something the most aren’t getting it anywhere else.

Esports is great for creating the pipeline

Having an esports team presents a great opportunity to give kids hands-on experience with careers in esports. Because esports is the fastest-growing industry in the world, it is important that students know that they can turn their love of video games into careers, especially STEM careers. I call this the pipeline. We need to create, then show, kids the pipeline they can follow to get from middle school through college and into a career by following their passion for gaming.

To do this, I have a team behind my esports team to help build out my esports ecosystem. I don’t just have players on my team–I have players and other support staff that fill vital support roles on the esports team. Roles such as shout caster, IT specialist, scout, statistician, graphic designer, video editor, event planner, journalist, accountant, marketeer, and many more. By giving students the jobs that need to be done to run a successful esports team, they are getting hands on experience with possible careers they might want to explore as they get older.

To further support the idea of following their passion for esports to college, I schedule my team to play colleges from around our state. After our match, I have the college players talk about what they are majoring in and how their passion for gaming plays a role in their choice.

My students leave feeling inspired after talking to the college students about their shared passion. My kids who may not think college is an option for them are realizing that maybe they want to go to college because they can continue to pursue esports at the collegiate level and then graduate into a career, traditional or otherwise, that lets them continue to be involved in gaming.

It has never been easier to start an esports team. I activated my team with the help of the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). They have everything you need to get your team up and running. Even if you don’t have gaming experience, you should consider starting an esports team at your school for all the benefits I’ve mentioned and more.

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