I got to sit in on a clubhouse call that is discussing the topic of esports on 5/26/2021. The topic for this session was esports within the scholastic space. Ranging from middle schools to high schools, college was briefly discussed although it was not the centerpiece of conversation. The meeting was orchestrated by Danielle Johnson the Executive director at Texas Scholastic Esports Federation, Bubba Gaeddert the Executive Director of the Varsity Esports Foundation, and James O’Hagan who is an advisory board member for several Esports associations and groups.
I wished to highlight some of the key points that were made as they were eye-opening to me. They were such new concepts because I never thought about them in that way, coming from the Collegiate Competitive Space and entering the workforce, middle school and high school esports were not at the front of my mind.
Danielle got started in the esports space as esports was brought up in conversation with a friend and the friend mentioned that they should start separate leagues for boys and girls so that the girls will not be harassed. Danielle answered back with how that is not the proper route, but rather we teach our boys to not be rude or better yet, not to be “jerk faces”. Daniele states that “I wanted something different for my kids, I hoped the space was different by the time my children got older. Then I realized I can make changes now to better the space instead of waiting”. Now she is helping the Texas Scholastic Esports Federation offer an esports league for all Texas schools and it is completely free.
When introduced Bubba, got the opportunity to talk about why he enjoys esports so much. His main point is that “Esports is so different from regular sports. It encompasses more due to the STEM component. When I played rugby, you are not learning much about the world and personal evolution unless you plan to work within the rugby industry. Most student-athletes in traditional sports may only learn about the benefits of being on the field and what it takes to compete. With esports, students can learn through STEM education about college and career readiness in school esports clubs that provide both competition and curriculum. Scholastic esports is so much more than just playing games”.
Danielle mentioned that one of her favorite parts of the scholastic space is that she loves the teachers. Teachers are reaching out to each other through Twitter, Discord, and they want nothing more than for their students to have fun and continue to be passionate about what they truly enjoy. “Many of the teachers I know have zero reasons to be in the business of esports but they are here for the sake of the children and they are learning things along the way. The community is so important
James hopped on this train of conversation speaking on how “it all comes back to the community”. He mentions how he has been blown over by just how strong this community is and how tight this community is. The teachers, admin, and leaders of this space want to provide a safe space for the students and so that they may connect and interact in safe and positive spaces. He mentions a recent clip that went viral in the gaming space of a LAN tournament in Texas where one player runs over to the other team and gets up in their face while screaming and trash-talking. James states that he wants to offer the space for children to interact in a location that is secure rather than having to interact in that kind of toxic environment. “When my students come up to me and speak with me, it is never really about the games they are playing but rather the people they are playing with.
TRANSPARENCY IS KEY
Danielle opened up on this topic stating “If you have never been on the other side of an angry parent, I cannot explain the responsibility that we have with their kids. When it comes to activities that occur outside of school, I am in charge of the children and teens in the world of gaming. The parents and school have to trust that you will not do anything harmful to the children or that you will not be disreputable”. Parents will be asking where the money for this club comes from? What is the money being used for? Danielle makes sure that all the parents have access to her phone number, email, Discord in case they have any questions or concerns.
The whole group dives into the conversation regarding how the content the children will see or interact with is safe for children. Danielle mentions that Dr DisRespect is a content creator that is popular but he is not safe for children, his content and ‘character’ have no place in the sphere of education. There have been companies that have offered to partner with various scholastic esports organizations but they must turn them away, as Dr DisRespect is a majority owner or large part of operations. The reason being, that parents will research what organizations are interacting with their children and may come across the content that Dr DisRespect creates and voice their concerns for their children. The industry of scholastic esports does not have the legs to support itself amidst controversy so the teachers and leaders must walk a tightrope on what they can show to the children and what they must avoid!