It’s no secret that e-sports is a booming industry — the global e-sports market will reach around $1.62 billion in 2024.
As the popularity of e-sports continues to grow, some schools are looking to get in on the action and offer programs for their students. Numerous colleges and universities provide e-sports programs and participate in collegiate-level e-sports tournaments. There are well over 100 college or university programs, with more expected to come.
Due to the rise of e-sports, more K-12 schools have either started e-sports after-school programs or are considering starting one. Let’s explore why these schools are considering adding e-sports to after-school activities, what schools are taking the lead in e-sports and what these programs are like.
Why K-12 Schools are Adding E-Sports Programs
Many K-12 schools offer recreation or competitive sports programs for their students to participate in after normal school hours. However, not all students are interested in playing sports. Some students may have physical limitations or health conditions that do not allow them to participate in sports.
While video games are not traditionally allowed in a school setting, some teachers and administrators recognize some benefits e-sports could offer.
Here are some of the main benefits of playing e-sports:
- Builds Community: Students looking to be a part of a team and develop positive relationships with peers can all be achieved through an e-sports program.
- Fosters Social-Emotional Learning: Social-emotional learning (SEL) is more often discussed in the educational setting. Essentially, SEL is everything that takes place in a classroom or school environment that can impact a student’s mental health and learning. E-sports programs can promote SEL.
- Students Learn Valuable Skills: Teamwork, social skills, strategic thinking, planning, handling failure and managing time are valuable skills students can improve with e-sports programs.
- Connects Students to STEM: Students who are drawn to e-sports often have related interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. This could help them develop STEM skills that could drive them to pursue a career in STEM.
- Increased Academic Engagement: Like traditional sports, e-sports allows students to channel their video gaming into something meaningful. Students may enjoy coming to school if they know they have an e-sports tournament later in the day and perform better academically.
Schools Offering E-Sports Programs for Students
Below, learn about some schools that adopted e-sports programs and what these programs offer to their students.
Colquitt County High School, Georgia
In Georgia, Colquitt County High School added an e-sports program. It’s reported that around 450 students showed up when the school first announced the program. Coach Ashley Hodge believes that many students in the school attend their classes so they can play e-sports later on in the day.
Hodge mentioned that one student planned on dropping out. After having the opportunity to participate in e-sports, he continued with school, graduated and now attends college. Students receive jerseys and letterman jackets and sometimes earn scholarships to attend colleges or universities to play e-sports.
Lyons Township High School, Illinois
The Lyons Township High School has an e-sports program that debuted in 2017. Their first meeting had over 100 in attendance. Some of the games played in the program include Fortnite, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Rocket League, Overwatch and League of Legends.
A club sponsor, Joshua Nabasny, says that some of his best memories growing up were made playing in the e-sports program. Students in the program attend practices and plan strategies for certain games. The school hopes to create a junior varsity and varsity team and treat the program more like an official sport.
Waukesha South High School, Wisconsin
Another school, Waukesha South, claimed its first e-sports title this year. The team went undefeated to win the Rocket League championship, defeating competitor Oak Creek in the final round. Waukesha South’s competitions were streamed on Twitch and some students even volunteered to be announcers for the matches.
Andrew Yep, a teacher at South, believes that one of the reasons he started the club was because everyone would be welcome to join. Yep says many students who did not want to participate in traditional sports or other activities could join the e-sports team as another outlet.
The Future of E-Sports Programs in Schools
When students do not participate in sports, for whatever reason, they may feel left out or detached from their school community and peers. However, if schools offered an e-sports program, it would be an opportunity for students to engage with their peers and feel a sense of belonging.
It’s expected that more K-12 schools will incorporate an e-sports program or club into their extracurricular activities. It will be interesting to see how e-sports become more popular in academic settings and how the industry will grow in the future.