There is no doubt that video games are extremely popular among young adults, including PA Distance students. A recent Pew Research Center study showed that more than 95 percent of high school-age boys and nearly 85 percent of high school-age girls play video games. The study explains that teenagers are making friends while playing video games and are staying connected with their peers at the same time. Today, professional esports are combining popular streaming services with social networking - two things with which teenagers are very familiar.
In order to create a meaningful extracurricular activity for students interested in playing competitive games, PA Distance has begun building the framework for an esports team. The PA Distance Esports Team will give students the unique opportunity to celebrate technology, sportsmanship, and collaboration by playing competitive video games against their peers across the state.
Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, PA Distance will officially have an Esports Team sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) and the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). According to PIEA, done appropriately, and with the proper oversight and regulations in place, implementing esports programs at the high school level can leverage the popularity and social nature of modern video games into increased engagement in school activities.
Mr. Matthew Dayka, PA Distance High School English Teacher, has taken the initiative to form the team and grow the program.
“I’m super excited for this team for a variety of reasons,” he said. “As a cyber school with students across the state, it’s exceedingly difficult to form a sports team. So, being able to form an esports team in a cyber environment is invaluable for the kids. The lessons and friendships they’re going to learn and make over the course of next year and beyond are going to help and serve them going forward personally and professionally.”
Studies show that students who are more involved and engaged in extracurricular activities have more successful outcomes, such as higher graduation rates, more class participation, and greater social interaction with peers.
“The values that sports teach are life lessons,” he said. “Esports is no different.”
In order to join the PA Distance Esports Team, students must have a GPA of at least 2.5 and have a high-speed internet connection. Once a team is formed, PA Distance will provide specific gaming laptops to students who don’t have one.
“Not having access to a PC shouldn’t be a hindering factor,” Mr. Dayka said. “If a student is interested in joining the team, we will provide everything they need to do so.”
Mr. Dayka is also adamant that just because a student doesn’t play video games, doesn’t mean they can’t help. The PA Distance Esports Team is made for anyone interested in joining and welcomes high school students of backgrounds and abilities.
“There are a variety of opportunities within the program for all different types of interests,” Mr. Dayka explained. “We are looking for journalists, artists, social media managers, analysts, and website developers to help develop and grow our team, too.”
The PA Distance Esports Team will follow NASEF’s lead when choosing what video games in which they will focus and compete. Each year, NASEF chooses the games that they will be using to host competitions.
“All of the games will be free-to-play and popular among students,” he explained. “I want to leave a lot of decisions about games up to the kids and where their interests lie.”
Mr. Dayka also sees an opportunity for students to focus on Career Education and Work skills with the Esports Team, too. PA Distance students have shown an increasing interest in pursuing a career in professional streaming, video game development, and computer science. With those careers in mind, students have the first-hand experience that they can hone their skills within the esports community.
“This team also provides students interested in professional steaming a forum to practice and hone their techniques using the equipment we are going to use,” he said. “There are a variety of colleges and universities who offer scholarships for esports and competitive gaming.”
Mr. Dayka is beginning to gauge interest among the PA Distance student body about joining the Esports Team and, based on the outcome, will order supplies and equipment accordingly. If you are a PA Distance student interested in joining the team, fill out this form or contact Mr. Dayka at email@example.com.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to do this,” Mr. Dayka said. “This is going to be the student’s team and they will have a big say in how it’s structured and run. It will adapt to the changing needs of our student body. It’s going to be awesome.”