St. Mary’s College is proving that athletes don’t have to compete on a field or in a hockey rink.
Throughout the spring semester, more than a dozen students have taken advantage of a new opportunity to play video games competitively as part of the high school’s latest extracurricular activity.
Esports, or electronic sports, is regarded as one of the fastest growing activities in K-12 education, according to the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board.
In an email to SooToday, Paula Trainor, the experiential learning lead for the H-SCDSB, says they were looking for a way to engage students who may not be interested in participating in traditional sports teams.
“Having realized the growing interest in esports, and through a meeting with Sault College, we came to see that offering this opportunity would not only provide students with a space to connect with other students but also introduce them to this growing international sport,” she says.
Taking place at lunchtime on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays inside the esports room at St. Mary’s, the program has received positive feedback from students and parents alike.
“I was so happy to hear that our school had a gaming team as I loved to play Rocket League at home," Hudson Wreggitt, a Grade 10 student at St. Mary’s College, said in a H-SCDSB news release. "At our school practices, I am able to make new friends, and I can’t wait to show off my gaming skills in future competitions."
“In a conversation with a parent, they were pleased to hear that esports could meet the needs of a student population that may not participate in the more traditional, physical sports,” Trainor adds. “Esports offers an opportunity to be more inclusive of all the abilities and interests of our students.”
Currently, the esports team at St. Mary’s operates as a recreational club that allows students to play and practice Rocket League – a soccer game with cars.
The program is hoping to move towards inter-provincial competitions against other high schools across Ontario in the fall.
Daniela Veltri, a guidance counsellor and teacher moderator at St. Mary’s College, says esports allows students to “think critically, work collaboratively, and develop their communication and social skills.”
She explains it can also inspire students to pursue higher education or careers in STEAM, including game design, computer science, data analysis, broadcasting, and graphic design.
“As the industry continues to grow, it becomes apparent that there are many roles that need to be filled – career wise,” Veltri says. “There is a huge demand for people with a technical background and that demand is only going to continue to increase.”
“Scholarships are even available for esports athletes at universities and colleges across North America.”
The H-SCDSB says they would love to see other schools in the Sault and surrounding area adopt a similar program to boost competition around the city.
“As the first high school in the city to offer esports, we would be open to sitting down with other school representatives to discuss how they might get their programs off the ground,” Trainor says.
“If the demand warrants, we’re hoping to purchase more equipment next year to grow our team.”