Richmond High School students could soon have the opportunity to participate in a new type of sports: Esports.
During an Aug. 8 Richmond Community Schools Board of Education meeting, Executive Director of Curriculum and Educational Services Renee Ara made a presentation regarding launching esports in Richmond Community Schools.
“Esports is the fastest growing sport in the world. You can see that it is currently worth $1 billion and is expected to reach $1.6 billion in the market in 2024,” Ara said. “The esports audience is growing. It will grow to 645 million globally by 2023. Last year high school students were awarded $16 million in esports scholarships to help students that are interested and then to be able to become game developers to go into, being in marketing and all of those entrepreneur type of gaming industries that is a growing industry as well.”
The board did not vote on the matter but board members expressed interest in seeing a pilot program and requested updates. Superintendent Brian Walmsley said the intent is to offer esports as a pilot program this school year, generate interest and see how it evolves.
“It’s a great fit for what we are trying to do with the whole STEM computer technology and it is now an avenue for students to really do what they are learning in the classrooms,” Walmsley said.
Ara also said at the state level there is some discussion of creating a CTE pathway for gaming and esports, putting this activity at the forefront of what is up and coming. She showed the board a map of Michigan schools that are part of a current esports league involving competition.
“We have the opportunity to be one of these high schools that do it. You can see that there are a lot of benefits. I share also in the vision Mr. Walmsley has, that every single student feels that they belong and can participate and be connected to a staff member here at Richmond. The statistic is 45% of students involved in esports have not participated in any other sport or activities. So you are really targeting a group of students that really don’t do anything else that they can become a community and a team themselves,” Ara said.
Ara also said she has been speaking with students and staff to determine the interest level in an esports program, and has garnered interest in a pilot program. The program would be run as an after-school club on a limited budget, and Ara estimated that it would begin with between eight to 10 high school students. If interest is greater, students will participate in tryouts, Ara said.
Esports goes beyond playing games and offers opportunities for various roles and education, along with structure and rules, according to Ara. Examples of esports roles she discussed were coaches, data analysts, marketing and content creators, which are students that use applications to learn to create their own games. Students also learn an aspect of coding.
“There is actually lots of roles that go along with this. You have your organizers, you have your IT people,” Ara said. “People that tend to play esports are actually the people that tend to create their own computers and things like that, so they actually do their own IT support as well.”
Although students play games in esports, not everyone plays at the same time, Ara explained. She said students would participate in a rotation type of schedule, in which they can learn and experience multiple aspects of esports and gaming. This would allow students to build resumes and apply for scholarships.
“You actually have, sometimes kids that are analyzing the games, talking about the trends and talking about how to bridge communication better between players and things like that. So you can see that there are lots of avenues for them to be able to go into,” Ara said. “You can see that the global market is asking for gamers as it is a huge, growing market.”
Students also have the opportunity to collaborate, communicate and participate in teamwork, like any other type of team, through esports. Ara said students on the team would have an opportunity to select from among G-rated games available through the league, then enroll in a season with the aim of competing in tournaments against other teams on a schedule. Students must adhere to a code of conduct and events are monitored.
“I was thinking, just kind of, you know, imagining this program, running it two days a week and then you could just, you could have your games,” Ara said. “You would have your practice your first hour and then you would have your game the second hour, is typically how esports leagues run. You can do a fall season, which we are not sure if we will make the preseason, but we will certainly make the spring season to be able to actually play in the tournament. But we can play scrimmages and everything and still play against other teams here, but you know, there is like an actual registration and being able to play in the playoffs and the championship and everything like that.”
Board to fill vacancy
Also on Aug. 8, Walmsley acknowledged the recent resignation of James Surowiec from the board. Surowiec was sworn in as a new trustee on March 14, filling a vacancy left by Bridgette Shuboy.
On Aug. 1, the district released information regarding the board of education vacancy left by Surowiec, listing that the vacancy was effective July 31. An individual will be appointed to fill the vacant position through the date that the district receives certified Nov. 8 election results, at which time the elected person will fill the seat. The actual term of office ends Dec. 31, 2026. Letters of interest for the temporary vacancy are due to the Richmond Community Schools Board of Education President Deborah Michon by Aug. 11 at 4 p.m.
Nicole Tuttle is a freelance reporter for MediaNews Group.
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