Esports in K12 schools has exploded over the last few years with schools creating clubs and competing in either state leagues or in some of the paid leagues (my preference is always for the state leagues). I first really thought about Esports at our schools when at FETC in January of 2020. While being someone who has always played video games, I had not heard a ton of about schools having their own teams before that time. I came back from that conference with some ideas and wanted to explore what we could do, especially since my role at the time was as Director of Technology for a school District.
Unfortunately, like with so many things, COVID came along and changed any plans that I would want to create. I was able to have some discussions with others in my district before everything got turned upside down. A few months later I left that school district and was lucky enough to enter a district that had already decided it wanted a high school Esports team. They had gotten approval from the board, figured out some funding, started to purchase equipment and of course made sure students were interested. They joined the state league (the Iowa High School Esports Association) and I signed on as a volunteer coach. I would spend a ton of my time outside of school that year, all unpaid, to help ensure that we were creating something for the students that they would enjoy and hopefully see success.
There was a lot of learning during that first year but the students were on board and were competing against schools from across the state. We promoted Esports during Homecoming week with some video game tournaments and we constantly were trying to recruit students. Year 2 would see a ton of success in our Smash Brothers Ultimate team and then our Mario Kart 8 Deluxe team would win the state title. Eventually we would raise that state title banner in the gym along with all of the athletic banners.
As it would happen, I would change schools again and am now in the process of getting Esports started at my new/old school, Ames High School. Our first season of Overwatch 2 has been a rousing success and we are currently (as of this update point) preparing for the playoffs. More info will be coming soon on this page and probably others.
The big thing I can say about Esports is that it gives students more opportunities than before. More opportunities to be part of a team, to learn from failure, to learn to support each other as they work towards a common goal, and to hopefully see some success. There are so many career paths that are connected to Esports and a ton of colleges have their own Esports teams with scholarship opportunities. While many may thing of video games as a waste of time, there are so many ways that we can support students, now and in the future, by simply giving them this opportunity. If you are on the fence, just talk to any school that has a team currently. Go to their practices and see their matches. Listen to them as they overcome their rival in a close match and then try to tell me this isn’t a great thing we are doing for students.
The rest of this page will house the resources for the various presentations and sharing of our Esports adventure at Nevada CSD and Ames CSD. We had our inaugural year of HS Esports at Nevada HS in Nevada, IA during the 2020-2021 school year. I was the coach at Nevada HS from the Fall of 2020 until the Spring of 2022 and am now starting an Esports program at Ames High School. Esports programs are showing up across the country and it provides a large number of benefits to the students who participate in these programs.