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JPS Esports Committee Shares Findings

When people think of video gaming, they often think of kids sitting in their room at home, alone, playing for hours on end. Many schools and colleges have taken video gaming to a new level through Esports - organized competition between two teams, governed by a strict set of rules and guidelines. Jamestown Public Schools’ Esports Committee recently presented its recommendations to the Board of Education for starting a pilot program at Jamestown High School. The committee’s purpose was to determine if Esports is a possible medium to connect more students to school to improve attendance.

           “We have many clubs and activities available to our students, but we know that we aren’t yet reaching everyone,” said Jessie Joy, JPS Chief Information Officer. “Because video games are so popular, students who aren’t yet involved in any school activities may be drawn to Esports. This is an opportunity to reach more students, while also promoting positive social skills, teamwork, and digital citizenship in a safe, supportive environment.”

Research shows that students who are involved in extracurricular activities are more likely to succeed academically, and less likely to drop out of school. In JPS, students who are involved in one or more extracurricular activity are twice as likely to attend school regularly, as compared to students who are not involved in any school activities. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 97% of teen boys and 83% of teen girls played video games. Esports has the potential to tap into this interest by encouraging more students to join a school team, where video gaming becomes a social experience.

What is Esports?

Esports is a rapidly growing industry with global monthly audience that is estimated to reach 276 million by 2022, comparable with total NFL viewership. Over 400 colleges and universities currently offer Esports programs, and almost half of these include Esports in their varsity athletic program with partial or full scholarships. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of schools represented by the High School Esports League (HSEL) has grown from around 200 to more than 1,200. In NYS, over 120 schools partner with HSEL, including: Ithaca, North Tonawanda and Plattsburgh.

What does a high school Esport program look like?

Parents should recognize that Esports isn’t just about video gaming. Esports requires teamwork, communication, critical and strategic thinking, creativity, sportsmanship and leadership — just like traditional sports. What does the high school experience look like? Like any other high school sport or extracurricular activity, students attend team meetings, practices and official matches. However, since Esports is played online, there is ​no travel required​ throughout the regular season. Players compete from their respective school, supervised by advisors.

Benefits of Esports?

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 is no exception. Some potential benefits of an Esports program at Jamestown Public Schools includes:

  • breaking down barriers between diverse student groups.
  • appealing to students who may otherwise not participate in school activities.
  • building peer relationships and self-confidence.
  • developing teamwork, collaboration and problem-solving skills.
  • teaching healthy gaming habits, self-management skills, and digital citizenship.
  • establishing eligibility requirements including positive attendance, behavior, academics.
  • having significant positive effects on reading, reasoning skills and mathematics achievement, perception and attention, systemic thinking, ethical reasoning, collaborative problem solving and computer and technology fluency.
  • promoting improved spatial awareness, problem-solving skills, and multitasking ability.
  • connecting to academic and career pathways - computer programming, graphic design, broadcast communications, business and marketing, aviation, medicine, engineering.

Esports can also provide a gateway to colleges and universities. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the main governing body for varsity collegiate Esports, has awarded millions of dollars in Esports scholarships and aid. Currently, more than 200 colleges and universities offer nearly 15 million dollars in scholarships.

What did the JPS Esports Committee Recommend?

The JPS Esports Committee recommended to the Board of Education a Spring 2020 Pilot Program at Jamestown High School beginning in March through June 2020. The JHS Esports Club would have 16 to 24 ninth graders and two advisors. The games used in the club will be rated “E,” appropriate for everyone. The pilot program’s success will be measured by:

  • increased participation in extracurricular activities,
  • improved attendance among Esports participants,
  • improved grades among Esports participants,
  • reduced behavior referrals among Esports participants, and
  • survey results that indicate positive experience and personal growth.

Once the pilot program is reviewed, future consideration will be given to a fully competitive Esports program at all Jamestown middle schools and JHS.

Thank you to the Esports Committee who volunteered their time to work on the recommendations report: Chairman Ben Drake, Board of Education Vice President, Patrick Slagle, Josh Lohnes, Dan Anderson, Peter Nordine, Jessie Joy, Chuck Marzec and Jason Kathman.