Should E-Sports be a “Sport” in Schools?

Definitely! There are a (hopefully) growing number of schools offering electronic sports as a competitive option for students. Some folks question whether or not e-sports are worthy of being made a team sport or even whether such participation is appropriate as a school sponsored event.

Regarding the topic of any sports or activities that are supported by schools outside of the school day curriculum, one may question whether or not public school efforts, support, or dollars should go to any activity outside the primary mission of schools–that is the academic preparation of students to enter adulthood at the end of the K-12 process. Just because schools have long supported football, basketball, drama clubs, debate teams, etc,. does not mean we should not question whether or not school resources should be used in their support. Are any one of the traditionally supported extra-curricular activities necessary in the advancement of student knowledge in English, math, science, social studies and other curriculums? Clearly the answer to this is no as one may easily find successful folks in academic content areas who do not participate in those activities or who rarely do. This means that such activities are exactly as they are designated, as extra, or in addition to the curricular activities performed by schools.

Some will argue that e-sports are not sports, rather they are “games.” When noting as such, “games” is used to indicate they are somehow lesser in importance than the other extra-curricular activities. I would argue that all sports are, in fact, games of some form in that they are “played” and that they are competitive in nature and that there are winners and losers in each of those contests. E-sports checks off these boxes as well as any other more traditional sport.

When I defend e-sports as being as worthy as any other extra-curricular activity, another argument I encounter is whether or not schools should support gaming at all. Some will argue that electronic gaming contributes to the moral degradation of our entire culture and are just more evidence of our ever-increasing lack of physical and moral rigor. This too is easily batted aside. Is it morally acceptable to continue to allow the still developing brains of young people to be physically susceptible to the concussions that are regular injuries in nearly all sports? I’ve also witnessed young people suffer broken bones, blown out knees, and a myriad of other injuries due to their participation in sports. E-sports may see some kids develop their own specific hand injuries, but it is highly doubtful that its participants will suffer the kind of very serious, and sometimes life-altering injuries we see via participation in more traditional school sports.

More positively, e-sports can open up team participation to an entirely different set of students than those who engage in traditional sports. Kids who now game at home and online via various providers can be brought into the school setting. This includes kids who may not, for various physical reasons, be able to participate in the traditional sports offerings. There is evidence that shows a positive correlation between students who are involved in extra-curricular activities and academic performance. At the very least e-sports team members may be required to live up to academic requirements to remain active on the team. For some kids, this provides the motivation to maintain at least minimal requirements and to progress toward on-time graduation.

Those who hold out against the growing e-sports trend are really just fighting against the inevitable. Today’s students are participating in traditional sports at much lower rates than their peers. Modern students are active participants on gaming platforms and in online gaming communities. Adding e-sports to the extra-curricular milieu will draw kids in from the wild west of the online world and into a positive, school related and school supervised atmosphere that will provide the same benefits and worthiness as any of the other traditionally supported activities.

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