My school year is off to a great start. My Fair Haven Innovates (opens in new tab) program is entering its fifth year of existence, the second year with the program looking like I want it to. Students are doing an outstanding job building their edcorps (opens in new tab) in FH Innovates. My esports team, the FH Knights (opens in new tab), is also entering its second year. This means it is time to take it up a notch.
Last year, the FH Knights were the first middle school esports team in the country. As such, it was hard to find anyone to play us in Rocket League. I wound up reaching out to Rutgers University and having a nice series of games with them. As the school year progressed, Steve Isaacs (opens in new tab) fielded a Rocket League team for us to play from his video game club. Steve’s WAMs played my FH Knights in the first ever middle school esports match in the country. After, I met Harvey Scribner (opens in new tab) who had started a middle school esports team out in Pennsylvania. We played Harvey’s Cougartek team in the first ever intercontinental (I have some WWE fans on my team) middle school esports match.
Having the first middle school esports match and the first match across state lines ticked two of my three goals for esports in education last year. The third was to have a match against a team from another country. I was lined up to play a middle school team from the Netherlands, but my son decided he couldn’t wait to be born anymore, so we had to cancel the match.
This year, I have two goals for esports in education. The first is to get that international match, but the second is a big one: build the first middle school esports league.
Over the summer, I put out the call to any middle school who has or will have a Rocket League team this school year. Where once I was alone, I am excited to say that there are eight middle school teams that have joined our league so far. Esports in education is really taking off. NJ is well represented with three teams. We also have teams from Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas, Florida, and New Mexico.
It is important that we build our own middle school league. At least in Jersey, there isn’t and will likely never be an official governing body for esports at our level. I have talked to the NJSIAA, our governing body for high school athletics, and while they said they are “getting background information on esports and doing our due diligence before we make any decisions moving forward…” with sanctioning esports at the high school level, they will not be providing any guidance or oversight at the middle school level. From the people I talk to, that seems to be the norm throughout the country: middle school esports is on its own.
That means if esports is going to happen at the middle school level, it is up to educators to make it happen. Organizing our league consists of a Google sheet where the teams have put their team info and availability as well as a Discord channel where we’re working out who will play whom and when. We’ll meet online at the agreed times and have our matches. EZ PZ.
I have no doubt that middle school esports, and esports in general, will continue its massive growth this year. As I outlined in this post (opens in new tab), It is important that all schools embrace esports and it is important that educators take an active role in making teams and building leagues. Neither is as hard as you think, and both will lead to better opportunities for students. Check out my Guide to Esports for Education (opens in new tab) if you want to bring esports to your school. And stay tuned to hear more about our league. It’s gonna be big!
Until Next Time,
cross-posted at Teched Up Teacher
Chris Aviles presents on education topics including gamification, technology integration, BYOD, blended learning, and the flipped classroom. Read more at Teched Up Teacher.