TL;DR "To start a school esports team, assess interest, build the team, train, and manage academics. Participate in tournaments and promote a positive culture to foster students' skills."
The rise of esports in recent years has been nothing short of meteoric, with professional teams, leagues, and tournaments becoming increasingly popular around the world. Esports offers an exciting new frontier for school programs, combining teamwork, strategy, and digital skills.
Here, we will explore how to start an esports team at school and manage it effectively. We'll also look at successful examples of school-based esports programs and conclude with a strong case for integrating esports in schools.
Laying a strong esports foundation
Assessing Interest and Identifying Potential Players
Begin by gauging the interest level of students in esports. This can be done through surveys, informal discussions, or by hosting a school-wide gaming event. Identify students with strong gaming skills and those who demonstrate good teamwork and communication abilities, as these traits are essential for a successful esports team. Create an esports club or interest group to bring together like-minded students and provide them with opportunities to learn about the esports industry, discuss strategies, and practice together.
Securing Support and Funding
Getting the support of school administration and parents is crucial for starting an esports team. Present the benefits of esports, such as developing teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Look for potential sponsors, apply for grants, or hold fundraising events to secure funding for equipment, coaching, and tournament fees. Approach local businesses, gaming companies, and alumni for financial support and sponsorship opportunities.
Creating a Dedicated Space
Designate a space in the school for the esports team to practice and compete. This can be a computer lab, a classroom, or even a shared space with another club. Make sure the space has a reliable internet connection, comfortable seating, and appropriate equipment such as computers, monitors, and gaming peripherals.
Choosing the Right Game Titles
Selecting the appropriate games for your esports team is vital. Consider factors such as popularity, skill level, and the availability of local or online tournaments. Some popular esports titles include Valorant, Overwatch, and Rocket League. Research the competitive scene for each game, and select titles with thriving communities, active leagues, and accessible resources for new players.
Establishing a Team Structure
Create a clear team structure, including roles for players, coaches, and managers. Also, consider having substitute players to ensure the team can continue to compete if a player becomes unavailable. Designate team captains or leaders who can help facilitate communication, organize practice sessions, and provide guidance to other team members.
Building your first esports team
Organize tryouts to identify and select the best players for your esports team. These tryouts can be done in-person or online, depending on the availability of gaming equipment and the game being played. Consider hosting multiple tryout sessions to give students ample opportunity to showcase their skills.
Establishing Team Goals and Expectations
Set clear goals and expectations for the team, such as committing to regular practice, maintaining good sportsmanship, and prioritizing academic performance. Develop a team charter or code of conduct that outlines the team's values and expectations, and have all team members sign it as a commitment to the team's success.
Developing Teamwork and Communication Skills
Emphasize the importance of teamwork and communication in esports, as they are crucial to a team's success. Incorporate team-building exercises and communication drills into practice sessions. Encourage players to share their knowledge and expertise with each other, and create a supportive environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute and ask questions. Use team meetings and feedback sessions to address any issues and reinforce the importance of collaboration.
Finding a Coach or Mentor
Seek out experienced esports coaches or mentors who can guide the team and help players develop their skills. This can be a teacher, a local esports professional, or even a skilled student. Ensure that the coach or mentor is knowledgeable about the chosen games, has strong communication skills, and is committed to the team's success.
Player Development and Skill Building
Create a training program that focuses on developing individual player skills, game-specific knowledge, and team strategy. Encourage players to study professional gameplay and learn from top players in their respective games. Utilize online resources, such as tutorials, guides, and forums, to help players expand their understanding of game mechanics and strategies.
Practice makes permanent
Creating a Practice Schedule
Establish a regular practice schedule that balances gaming with schoolwork and other commitments. Ensure that practice sessions are productive and focused on improving individual and team skills. Use a combination of drills, scrimmages, and strategy discussions to create well-rounded practice sessions that address all aspects of gameplay. This is not just an excuse for the team members to play the game; it is an opportunity to develop specific skills that build their coordination, speed, and faster decision-making.
Reviewing Game Footage
Analyze game footage to identify strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies to improve performance. This can be done through video replay analysis tools or by reviewing footage as a team. Encourage players to critique their own gameplay and identify areas for improvement. If your team live streams their matches (which we highly recommend), make sure you rewatch the recording from the match to analyze your tactics and work on improvement.
Participating in Scrimmages
Arrange scrimmages against other school teams or online opponents to gain valuable experience and test strategies in a competitive setting. Use these matches as opportunities to refine teamwork, communication, and in-game decision-making. This is a skill that the team captain should be working on as the leader of their team, so have them coordinate the scrimmages for your team and come to you for advice or sign-off.
Attending Local and Online Tournaments
Participate in local and online tournaments to gain exposure, hone skills, and build the team's reputation. Encourage team members to watch and learn from other teams' gameplay, and use tournament experiences as opportunities for growth and development.
Tracking Progress and Adjusting Strategies
Regularly assess the team's progress by tracking performance metrics, such as win rates, individual player statistics, and tournament placements. Use this information to adjust training strategies, identify areas for improvement, and set new goals for the team.
Managing your new esports team
Balancing Academics and Esports
Ensure that team members maintain good academic standing and prioritize schoolwork over gaming. This can be done by enforcing a minimum GPA requirement and offering academic support when needed. Encourage players to manage their time effectively and communicate any concerns or issues related to balancing esports and academics.
Promoting Positive Team Culture
Foster a positive and supportive team culture by encouraging sportsmanship, camaraderie, and respect among team members. Address any issues or conflicts that arise promptly and constructively. Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements, and create a sense of pride and ownership within the team.
Engaging with the School Community
Involve the broader school community in the esports team's activities, such as hosting viewing parties for tournaments, organizing fundraisers, or collaborating with other clubs and organizations. Use social media and school announcements to share the team's achievements and promote upcoming events. This is also a great opportunity to begin to live stream your school's esports matches so that the larger school community can view the matches and support the team even if they are watching on their personal device.
Maintaining Open Communication
Ensure open and transparent communication between players, coaches, and parents to keep everyone informed and involved in the team's progress. Schedule regular meetings with all stakeholders to discuss the team's performance, address concerns, and plan for future events and initiatives. Getting your community's buy-in and keeping them involved will help solidify support for your esports team long-term.
The success stories for esports in schools
High School Esports League (HSEL)
The High School Esports League (HSEL) in the United States has successfully implemented esports programs in schools, offering competitive leagues and tournaments in various games. HSEL has helped thousands of students develop valuable skills and even earn college scholarships through esports. The league has also provided schools with resources and support for building and managing their esports teams.
Australian Esports League High School (AELHS)
Australian Esports League High School (AELHS) is a platform for schools across Australia to compete in esports tournaments. AELHS has seen rapid growth and widespread adoption, promoting the development of digital skills and fostering a sense of community among students. The platform offers a variety of games and tournaments, catering to different skill levels and interests.
North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF)
The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) is another example of a successful school-based esports organization. NASEF provides students with opportunities to participate in competitive gaming while focusing on education and career development. They offer resources, support, and networking opportunities for students, educators, and schools looking to build and manage esports teams.
Esports Ohio is a non-profit organization that focuses on empowering Ohio's high school esports scene. This organization provides a platform for students to participate in competitive gaming while emphasizing sportsmanship, teamwork, and academic excellence. Esports Ohio offers resources, tournaments, and support for schools and students, showcasing the positive impact esports can have on student engagement, personal development, and the school community.
British Esports Association's School Championship
The British Esports Association's School Championship is a testament to the growing popularity of esports in schools. The program encourages schools to create esports teams and participate in national competitions, fostering teamwork, communication, and strategic thinking among students. The championship has attracted a large number of participating schools, highlighting the potential of esports as an educational tool and extracurricular activity.
Esports has the potential to transform education by offering students a unique opportunity to develop valuable skills while engaging in a popular and rapidly growing industry. Starting an esports team at school can help students foster teamwork, communication, and problem-solving abilities, all of which are critical for success in today's digital world. Moreover, esports can serve as a platform for students to connect with their peers, build a sense of community, and even access scholarship opportunities.
By following the steps we've outlined, schools can successfully build and manage an esports team, setting the stage for students to excel both in gaming and in their academic pursuits. Integrating esports in schools is a promising and exciting opportunity, and now is the perfect time to start your esports team at your school.