Esports are here to stay. As a spectator sport and as an industry. In colleges and in high schools. And in no small way. Competitive gaming has become a billion dollar business and is projected to grow exponentially. The prevalence of esports in schools is likewise rapidly expanding.
The High School Esports League (HSEL) – just one of several such leagues – claims over 1500 schools as members. Between 2018 and 2019 the number of leagues that facilitate esports in schools nearly doubled. Newcomer PlayVS has an exclusive contract with The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the governing body for most high school sports and activities in the United States.
Esports in schools is on the verge of going mainstream. Many would say it’s already become a common extracurricular activity. There are those who bristle at the thought of a digital activity as sport. We explore these controversies in our article Is Esports a Sport? Below, we look at the many reasons that esports in schools can be a very good thing.
The Benefits of Esports in Schools
Educators know that taking part in extracurricular activities boosts student success. A lot. Regardless of the activity. Whether a comedy club or a softball team. A meet up for engineering enthusiasts or movie buffs. Studies have definitely shown that students who are involved in extracurricular activities are more successful in a number of ways.1
Among the benefits: Involved kids miss less school and graduate at a higher rate. They do better in math and reading and more often aspire to higher education.2 Students that join activities are more likely to pay attention in class. They care more about their education.3 They also feel better about themselves and engage in fewer harmful behaviors like smoking and drinking.
The key to benefiting from this dynamic is for schools to offer activities that appeal to as many students as possible. That’s were esports comes in. Read on for five high-impact ways esports in schools is a great thing for students, schools and the community.
1. Esports in Schools Brings Success to More Students
Teens are all about gaming. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 97% of teen boys and 83% of teen girls played video games. Some of these teens are involved in school sports and clubs. Many, however, are not. By offering esports as an extracurricular activity, schools reach students who often are otherwise disengaged from the school community. Esports in schools can transport these kids from the solitary world of digital gaming into the common space of the school computer lab or library commons. These otherwise uninvolved students join the ranks of their successfully involved peers: More likely to be engaged during classes. More likely to graduate. More likely to aspire to higher education. And less likely to suffer and spread the harms of feeling out of sync with their school community.
2. Inclusion is Good for Students and the Community
Gaming can be an isolating pastime. When students can join a school esports team, it becomes a social experience. Without a school esports club, passionate gamers often feel left out of mainstream school social life. Organized esports brings these kids into the fold. It can help them become accepted and respected members of their school community.
The feelings of acceptance gained through joining school activities like esports safeguard students’ physical as well as mental health. For one thing, strong social connections boost immune function. Conversely, those who feel excluded sleep more poorly. This can take a toll on student health, leading to more missed school and negative academic outcomes.
The sense of inclusion gained through participation in esports at school can have far-reaching benefits. We know that kids who are involved in school activities are more successful across the board. This involvement can benefit the community at large. When kids feel included and good about themselves, they’re less likely to seek attention through provocative behavior and aggression. Ostracism and a sense of feeling excluded can leave lasting damage.4
According to American Psychological Association researchers, social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. It reduces performance on difficult intellectual tasks. It can also contribute to aggression and poor impulse control. Recent research using fMRI revealed that the pain of being excluded is neurologically nearly identical to the pain of physical injury.5Sometimes, those who are ostracized become aggressive. Rarely, they may become violent. A 2003 analysis of 15 cases of school shooters found all but two suffered from social rejection.
3. Students Learn Valuable Skills Playing Esports in School
It’s intuitive: team sports teach valuable skills. Many parents encourage their children to participate in a team sport for just this reason. Team sports provide an arena for teaching important lessons and life skills beyond the classroom. The skills practiced and honed as part of a team applies equally to any sport. Esports are no exception. These skills include:
- Working with others. Call it teamwork, cooperation or collaboration. By whatever name, working well with others requires the development of countless additional skills. Like communication, assertiveness and compromise. Conflict management, active listening, and respect.
- Social skills. Social skills are the building blocks of interpersonal