When most people think of sports, they don’t think of videogames. However, videogames are now considered a sport in many high schools and colleges and the competition called Esports is all about teamwork.
For parents, seeing teens focused on the computer and playing video games is a familiar sight.
“I started playing videogames as a kid, as most people of my generation have,” Daniel Suitum, a junior at Woodstock Academy, said.
Videogames are a pastime and a passion for many kids and teachers at Woodstock Academy put a team twist on gaming.
“Esports is a competitive gaming platform. Essentially students are doing what they may do just for fun at home, but coming together in a way which helps them practice leadership, cooperation, strategy,” Wesley Jenkins, the director of residential life and assistant dean of students at Woodstock Academy, said. “Some of the creative problem solving that happens in videogames really helps students figure things out on their feet, use their imagination and also have to work together in difficult situations.”
The Woodstock Academy team is one of more than a dozen Connecticut schools participating in Esports under the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).
“It builds community, teamwork, collaboration, all the life skills that they need,” Cherese Miller, the CIAC director of student activities, said. They started overseeing Esports in 2015 and the CIAC held Connecticut’s first state championship this year.
Along with life skills, having a coach and structure helps keep things safe.
“If it is too violent, the schools are not going to even allow it,” Miller said.
Gaming skills can also help teens when they go to college, including at the University of Connecticut.
“We just play games and have a good time,” Devyn Lowry, a UConn junior and expert gamer, said.
Lowry is the president of the UConn Gaming Club and brings students together weekly to play video games.
“Teamwork is very important, having those creative problem-solving skills, extremely important, especially in today's job economy,” Lowry said.
While no Esports scholarships are currently offered at UConn, different universities across the country have started the practice.
The annual Husky Games this weekend will bring around 400 college students to the campus to compete.
The competition will be held in the UConn Student Union ballroom on Saturday April 20, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is open to the public.
“All of the experiences have been positive,” Lowry said. “When you are meeting different teams from different schools and hearing their different experiences, the different ways they like to play and stuff like that, you are constantly learning.”
He said he is confident that gaming and education will lead to career.
For the high school students at Woodstock Academy, Esports have already led to opportunities with semi-pro teams. However, this team makes these kids the happiest.
“Probably the biggest part is just like having fun and being able to enjoy the time that you have with your teammates,” Suitum said.
If your Connecticut school is interested in adding Esports to the athletic department, reach out to the CIAC.