As the head coach of Esports at Marion Technical College as well as a semi-professional Esports player, I wanted to respond to the editorial “When sport imitates life” on December 2019. As the writer pointed out, there are many factors affecting participation in traditional sports, including cost, concussions, time commitment and burnout. Issues of physical activity, childhood obesity and team recruitment are much bigger and more complex than just competition from Esports.
What are the benefits of Esports? It provides an affordable, inclusive way for teens to socialize and compete. Organizations such as the High School Esports League often provide schools with hardware to start a club. Many popular games are free or under $30, including Overwatch, League of Legends and Rocket League. It is inclusive as teen with disabilities and pre-existing conditions can join. Players learn valuable skills including teamwork, leadership skills, communication, relationship-building, problem-solving, strategic thinking and time management.
Coaches instill positive values including good sportsmanship, persistence, fairness and respect. In addition, there are $15 million college scholarships for Esports as well as the opportunity to earn money from tournaments. Students involved in Esports are primed to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)
Being involved in any extracurricular activity improves student attendance and graduation rates. Students are more likely to pursue higher education, pay attention in class and care more about their education. Other benefits include positive self-esteem and lower rates of harmful behaviors like smoking and drinking.
Esports players do need to be physically fit in order to be at the top of their game. Being physically fit improves reaction speeds and sharpens thought processes. Most colleges have physical fitness programs with the Esports program to ensure players are in top form.
Local players can compete nationally and internationally if they are talented and committed. Entire arenas are sold out for major competitions and streamed live around the globe. Esports players learn to cope with pressure and large audiences.
According to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center, 97% of teen boys and 83% of teen girls play video games. Esports are here to stay. While change can feel disconcerting. I encourage you to learn about this exciting, growing and competitive arena. The MTC Esports Arena has open play hours and I invite anyone interested to contact me to join a session to see what Esports is all about.
Marion Technical College