Why more high schools should make esports a varsity-level sport
Should more schools be making esports an official high school sport like basketball and football? Source: Shutterstock

When it comes to high school athletes, we usually tend to think of those who play sports like basketball and football.

But a new sport is gaining in popularity in schools around the US – and it doesn’t involve any physical balls, uniforms, or even safety gear like knee pads and helmets.

Competitive videogaming – also known as esports – are now an official and legitimate high school sport in American schools.

According to CNN, “It began with Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island in the fall of 2018. A few months later, the National Federation of State High School Associations said Alabama, Mississippi and Texas Charter schools have joined the mix.”

Students have been playing video games for decades now, and with the rapid pace of technology, gaming have become more challenging, complex, and realistic.

There are many reasons to support and encourage esports in schools, and this starts by making it an actual sport in schools so that students can embrace it wholeheartedly.

In other countries like the UK and Australia, esports are common among teenagers and there are associations and leagues such as the British Esports and Australia’s High School Esport League (HSEL), but they have not been deemed an official school sport.

Here are some ways that including esports as a high school sport benefits students.

A valid career pathway

Just like how other student athletes have gone on to have lucrative and successful sport-related careers, playing in varsity leagues and then playing sports professionally, video gamers also now have these options.

Brian Prokes, executive director of Johnson STEM Activity Center told CNN, “The current pipeline for esports is: Kid is interested in a video game, kid starts playing video game, kid gets good at video game, kid gets paid.”

“It’s a hobby that they’re passionate about and we want to encourage that and give them a pathway to a career in the future, whether that’s as a professional video game player or in a STEM career that helps to develop future games,” he added.

Roughly 80 colleges and universities in the US now offer scholarships for esports, making the path even smoother for those looking to make videogaming a career.

A non-discriminatory and inclusive sport

Unlike physical sports where those with only the ideal athletic prowess make the cut, esports are more inclusive. People of all shapes and sizes can become videogamers as long as they have the interest and passion.

Since it’s all online, it’s also non-discriminatory where players don’t need to reveal their ethnicities or socioconomic backgrounds, so students from different backgrounds can feel more comfortable taking part.

It’s also non gender-specific like other sports which are typically divided into either men’s or women’s teams, as physical limitations don’t matter in video gaming.

According to Weareteachers, “Because esports take place in the virtual world, physical stature is not an advantage or a limitation, so students of all abilities and genders can play on the same team. Mount Saint Charles’ first esports team was composed of two girls and 14 boys, divided onto three different teams. More than 20 students have already expressed interest in joining the team next season.”

Plus, while previously videogaming was seen as a socially isolating activity, encouraging them as sports in schools allows students to get more involved in the community.

Steve Jaworski, head of strategic partnerships for HSEL, told EdTech Magazine, “There’s historically been a stigma associated with gaming. Teenage gamers have been stereotyped as ‘basement dwellers,’ especially when others in their school communities frown on gaming as a waste of time.

“Now, instead of feeling alone, they’re welcomed into the ­community. They’re contributing to the school ecosystem, and they’re passionate about being rewarded. These previously disenfranchised young people are being accepted — and, in many cases, celebrated.”

Develops important skills

Some naysayers may scoff at this and say, “What kinds of skills does sitting on your behind holding a video game controller help you develop?”

The answer is: several! Some of the more prevalent ones are coordination, patience, resilience, and stamina.

Even someone who’s an expert at playing video games would find a new game challenging at first because it takes practice and dexterity, and develops skills needed for coordination.

Many of these games require having to sit and play for several hours, not to mention repeating levels or certain tasks, so it also teaches kids how to be patient and resilient in order to achieve an end goal.

It also develops responsiveness and sharp thinking when a player needs to act quickly to changing stimuli.

These are just a few reasons why schools should be encouraging esports as a valid high school sport, in order to motivate students to reap their benefits and discourage negative connotations.

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