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5 Ways High School Esports Mirrors Traditional Varsity Athletics

A coached competitive environment” benefits players

Thom Fain
Jan 28, 2021

As esports continues to evolve and the PlayVS ecosystem grows to incorporate more high schools and colleges than ever before, we’re hearing from players and coaches beaming about their program’s benefits for everyone involved. Previously disengaged students are finding a home in extracurriculars and that’s increasingly true throughout the global pandemic.

It’s no secret that student-athletes are more engaged in academics overall than your average student. In fact, 97% of them go on to graduate high school – a double-digit increase over those who don’t participate in team sports, according to University of Kansas research. Working with their teammates and coaches day after day also helps form a plethora of social skills, and esports has shown itself to provide the same benefits.

In these ways and many more, the benefits of esports mirror those of traditional varsity sports like football and softball.

Organized Practice

As any one of our Super Coaches would admit, regularly scheduled practice is a strong driver of team cohesion and the backbone of a good esports program. Meeting multiple times per week helps players define their strengths, and allows coaches to assign them to a position accordingly.

Esports practice drives discipline, and keeps students regularly engaged with school activities. And while sweat bands and pads may not be necessary like in other sports (although you can style your esports team however you like), players are taught the benefits of healthy choices that can improve their gaming through sharper reaction times and stronger memory. 

Drills and Playmaking

YouTube is filled with trick shot videos and capstone moments from big games, like the PlayVS College Fortnite Championship series from back in the Fall. But how do players get that good

In 2020, multiple amateur esports players were called up to the professional ranks. Leagues like PlayVS provide the sort of platforms colleges and high schools are utilizing to showcase their player’s talent. With a season’s worth of consistent playmaking on streams, videos begin to surface and put them on the recruitment radars of well-funded professional teams.

Participating in a league for an entire season rather than a one-off tournament instills the practice regularity, familiarity with teammates, and consistent coaching needed for any player to see significant improvement. This is the sort of structure esports brings to the passion so many have for gaming.

Problem Solving Skills

One of the biggest boosts to the brains of gamers comes in the form of enhanced critical thinking and problem solving skills – another similarity with traditional sports. Soccer players, for instance, are known to have increased concentration, better memory, and stimulated creativity.

Almost an identical range of benefits can be found in esports.

And according to the American Psychological Association, school-aged kids who played strategic video games regularly are more creative, owning a wide range of improved cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning and memory.

Promoting Good Sportsmanship

All across the internet, we can find examples of how not to act; in esports, good sportsmanship is an absolute must. And while winning is always more fun than losing, participation in esports in and of itself is fun and forces students deal with both outcomes. 

And while striving for success can motivate young players to level up their skills, it’s the fun atmosphere that keeps them coming back to the gaming lab for more. That provides a unique opportunity to instill healthy communication habits and the sort of sportsmanship towards opposing teams that are expected of all athletes in any sport. Learning to deal with the highs and lows of competition isn’t just important for sportsmanship, it’s important for life.

Throughout the course of a season, players will learn inclusion, respect, perseverance and many other aspects of sportsmanship similarly expected from athletes at any level, in any sport – a far departure from the sort of toxic chatter common in casual gaming servers and public lobbies. Functioning as a part of a team or esports organization enforces a heightened sense of accountability to players they might not have when playing alone.

Community and Support 

Whether it’s the underclassman who’s new in school from another town, or the gamer who hosts Smash Bros tournaments and Friday sleepovers with their closest friends, competitive gaming offers a place for students to come together. In organized esports gamers can connect both virtually and in person, and the benefits of that sense of community prove out again and again. 

According to university researchers, kids who connect through games like League of Legends have higher overall school competence and fewer problems with their peers.

Regardless of a student’s background, we hear all the time that the school’s esports team provides them a unique opportunity to bond with friends over something they love – and the social benefits they acquire are pretty close to those that “grass” sports offer