Already extremely popular, esports—or competitive gaming—continues to grow and gain more national and international mainstream attention. Under the guidance of Dr. Laurie Walczak, Kevin Hildebrand ’22, and Xavier Barth ’22, University School of Milwaukee launched its own esports team in 2019, and it has proven to be a popular option with students and parents alike.
Who plays esports?
In high schools, esports programs appeal to a wide population of students. Many studies have shown that esports is not only a perfect fit for students who already game in their free time, but also for students who want to be a part of a team and learn a new skill, particularly a new skill in a STEM field. Esports provides opportunities to encourage students’ interest in computer sciences and STEM, as well as to develop their leadership, teamwork, communication, risk-taking, and critical and strategic thinking skills, among others.
What are the benefits of esports?
- In addition to technical skills, both experienced gamers and newcomers gain social-emotional learning skills as they establish teams, develop mentorships, collaborate, and compete with students who may not otherwise regularly interact with one another.
- Coming together to play, teach, learn, and enjoy time together builds community, opens communication, and improves school spirit.
- Esports offers a unique opportunity to build connections across diverse populations; its openness to everyone encourages inclusion.
Where do students play esports?
Playing together in a shared space is the goal of esports; doing so establishes community, friendship, mentorship, connection, and a sense of belonging. PlayVS, considered the gold standard of high school esports, requires teams to play together in the same space for these reasons. Because PlayVS partners with ESPN, National Federation of State High Schools, colleges and universities, and other elite esports organizations, USM values its participation in the PlayVS league. We hope to build our program and establish our play in the PlayVS league by adding more gaming rigs and streaming equipment to the Lubar Center for Innovation and Exploration. USM Esports also hopes to add a viewing area for fans where students can watch our teams take on high schools across the nation.
What about esports in college?
About 250 universities nationwide have esports programs, and already expansive scholarship opportunities continue to grow. All Big Ten schools, including the University of Wisconsin, have esports teams and there is even an Ivy League esports conference. In Wisconsin, Marquette University has an impressive varsity sport and club program with plans for a major, state-of-the-art facility underway (Marquette was among first major conference NCAA Division I institutions to add a varsity esports program in athletics). Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee also have esports programs.
As with traditional athletics, USM esports abides by the Common Trust; creates a culture of teamwork, service, and personal responsibility; promotes the qualities of sportsmanship, responsibility, teamwork, cooperation, leadership, and winning and losing with grace; and requires responsibility to USM, the community, the student body, the activity, and the student him/herself. Moreover, USM esports upholds the same code of conduct standard throughout the esports world. We create an open, welcoming, safe environment where students can have fun and develop their skills. We do not engage in any offensive language or actions; we do not cheat or hack; we do not share private information; and we do not tolerate harassment, discrimination, or denigration. In these ways, USM esports, like traditional athletics, contributes to our school’s dedication to helping our students grow as learners, leaders, and citizens.