Youngstown City Schools to Launch E-Sports Team in Fall

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Youngstown City School District jumped on the rise of e-sports, unveiling a new team that will make its debut this fall.

The East High School Golden Bears e-sports team is headed by 10th grade geometry teacher and district e-sports program developer Charles Stark. 

“We believe students will work hard academically to qualify for a spot on our team,” he said. “It gives a traditionally underserved group of scholars a reason to come to school and prioritize their education.” 

Those interested must meet academic and attendance requirements just as with other athletics programs. The team is open to high school students at East, Chaney High School and Rayen Early College. They also have to try out and be selected for the team with plans for 28 members the first year – promoting teamwork, communication, critical and strategic thinking skills.

The district may offer a team at each high school if membership increases on the Golden Bears team.

District CEO Justin Jennings said e-sports provides another way for scholars to get involved in school beyond the classroom.

“We want our scholars to be involved in extracurricular activities and sports as another way to increase engagement with the scholars themselves and with families as well,” he said.

The new team will be part of Esports Ohio, which includes schools across the state. Teams will compete after school in four games: Rocket League, Fortnite, SuperSmash Bros. and Overwatch – all of which are rated for teens or younger participants.

There’s no charge to players although fundraising may be required. 

Games will be played in a room at East with YCSD students facing off against teams from high schools throughout Ohio. A room is being outfitted with computers, gaming consoles, monitors, headsets and other equipment. Each team member will also get a team jersey.

Because competitions are online, travel will be limited. Team members will be transported from Chaney and YREC to East after school and then all of the players will be transported home after games and practices.

Unlike other athletics, e-sports is co-ed and because its requirements aren’t physical and barriers for scholars with physical limitations are few.

“Supporting e-sports in schools helps students to learn valuable lessons and life skills,” said Josh Knutson, e-sports and virtual reality solutions director at ByteSpeed, the company through which YCSD is buying e-sports equipment. “We’ve heard from many students that e-sports has allowed them to find a community to call home. e-sports teams provide students a valuable gateway to top post-secondary institutions and career opportunities in a variety of fields. Today, over 200 colleges and universities offer nearly $15 million annually in scholarships for e-sports athletes. 

“E-sports athletes learn to think critically, communicate effectively and interact with their peers in ways that will benefit them well beyond their high school and college careers.”

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships for e-sports and participation prepares scholars for industries, including computer science and management.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.