Nov 03 2021

Powerful Partnerships for Continued Esports Success and Growth

Competitive K–12 scholastic esports programs are built on the backbone of these key alignments.

What once seemed like part of a Ready Player One future schooling scenario has rapidly become a powerful tool for educational success. Scholastic esports, the inclusion of competitive video gaming in our schools, is most definitely on the rise. While we are still in the early adoption of esports into K–12 and higher education ecosystems, we’ve seen important trends emerge.

One of these trends includes the development of different partnerships and organizational alignments that enable sustainable growth and continued program success. “Relationships are your foundation in the building process,” says Christopher Turner, an esports leader and educator at Southern University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, La. “You might be excited, but Rome wasn’t built by one man.”

While some forge ahead in pilot mode, successful teams have leveled up their programs and, in doing so, embedded their ecosystem with alliances that continue to fuel the fire of scholastic esports.

Click the banner below to access esports solutions from CDW that support your K–12 program's success. 

On-Campus Partnerships to Support Scholastic Esports

There are already partners walking your hallways whose experiences you can lean on to grow your program. These internal stakeholders can help you get up and running, preparing your team to play at a competitive level, even before you need to engage with the community.

Athletic Directors
If anyone knows how to move students around, set up competitions and create schedules, it’s K–12 athletic directors. Having a conversation with your athletic director before you kick off your program can help you understand the competitive landscape, the schools and districts that are rivals, and potential matchups for your team.

A district athletic director can get you in touch with other schools and districts that may be open to competing with your team. An athletic director can also help you navigate the different departments that will need to be involved at the district level. More important, they can help lead the charge to have your esports team recognized alongside more traditional sports teams.

Faculty Stakeholders
Many faculty members may have roles that are a natural fit for esports partnerships. For example, some members in your district are experts at dealing with supplementary budgets, unique supplies and specialized equipment for their programs. Not only can they be a great resource as you navigate those conversations for the first time, but often they can mutually benefit from having their work connected to an esports program.

Curriculum directors and subject area experts — particularly those in science, technology, engineering and math — can provide guidance on connecting esports to existing curricula and instructional programs. Career and technical education directors may have suitable programs for esports athletes to consider as well, such as game development, digital design or broadcasting. Media specialists, who are often adept with technology strategies such as streaming and broadcasting, can work with students on improving those skills for the benefit of the program.

Joe Catania
Esports as an elective is so powerful because the very nature of the program is designed to harness and tap into the skill sets of a wide group of students, not just the gamers.”

Joe Catania Director of Data Management and Technology, Washingtonville Central School District

Some schools even work collaboratively to develop elective courses or capstone projects centered around esports. “Esports as an elective is so powerful because the very nature of the program is designed to harness and tap into the skill sets of a wide group of students, not just the gamers,” says Joe Catania, director of data management and technology for New York’s Washingtonville Central School District.

School Staff
In our excitement to get esports initiatives off the ground, we may forget that the best partners for building a sustainable and successful program are often the people who ensure our schools run on a day-to-day basis. In planning the program’s operational logistics, work with your school’s custodial and facilities teams to identify a space within your district that will not only support the current needs of your program but also accommodate future growth.

A district’s classified and clerical staff are perhaps the most indispensable resources of knowledge when it comes to running a school. They can help you with logistical difficulties, such as scheduling conflicts, and budgeting challenges, like submitting purchase orders and managing invoices. But most important, they know all the tricks for running a school that others don’t consider. Get them involved early, as their wisdom could prove invaluable.

DISCOVER: Why should schools invest in leveling up K–12 esports programs?

Parents and family members can be the most powerful allies when trying to launch or advance an esports initiative. Parents can make things happen — or conversely, make sure things don’t happen. “Parents and families have become co-pilots in their student’s learning,” says Mariel Milano, director of digital curriculum outreach at Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla.

Engaging parents in a meaningful dialogue on the benefits of esports is a good first step. Bringing them on as partners to educate the community and assist with fundraising can only further a thriving and sustainable esports program.

Partnerships to Tap Beyond School Walls for Esports Success

While your school community is filled with individuals whose expertise can help you get your program up and running, looking outside your immediate surroundings can help you find partnerships to take your programs to the next level.

Community Organizations and Local Businesses
First, be sure to reach out to community organizations and local businesses that have supported school initiatives in the past. They may be looking for a fresh idea like esports to attach their name to (and, potentially, their funds).

Beyond fundraising, these organizations can also put students in touch with esports and related career professionals, and they could be a fantastic source for internship opportunities.

Existing District Vendors
While fundraising, don’t forget to reach out to existing district vendors, even if they aren’t local. Many companies are getting involved with esports, and they may have resources or connections to share. They also might be willing to sponsor a team to get their logo on equipment, content or jerseys.

Additionally, their existing contracts with your school make it easier for you to purchase the equipment you need. Your bookkeepers and procurement departments will be happier with these familiar options.

Click the banner below to discover esports content for K–12 programs of all levels.

Local Colleges and Universities
If you’re looking to level up a K–12 esports program, get familiar with the landscape at local colleges and universities. With many higher education institutions launching esports initiatives — from competitive teams to entire programs of study — you can start to build pathways for your students. There are also more colleges giving scholarships and recruiting scholar gamers into their ranks.

This also creates opportunities to connect high school students with collegiate players, solidifying the pipeline for esports programs while giving the students ongoing mentorship. “When you look at sustainable organizations, they all have one thing in common: community,” Turner says. “This pipeline approach has been proven to work. If you build it, your program will uphold itself.”

“Esports is a powerful magnet for student involvement and education,” says Gerald Solomon, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit North America Scholastic Esports Federation. In addition to running competitions and leagues, NASEF is the top skill-building organization for athletes, the “team behind the team” — student shoutcasters, videographers and managers, among others — and even coaches. Its free resources are developed and tested by experienced educators, informed by research, and state-approved.

It also has affiliate groups in different states that can support your program on a local level. There are incredible events and challenges year-round that help develop the whole player. “NASEF helps you build a well-rounded scholastic esports program that connects play with meaningful learning,” Solomon adds.

WATCH NOW: NASEF leadership discusses the importance of scholastic esports.

A Bring-It-All-Together Resource

While some partners can help with one or two items on your esports list, look for partners to support your complete journey — from planning, hardware and curriculum to competitions — to keep the fire of esports burning. You can rely on a strategic district partner to not only provide necessary equipment and mentoring, but also give you real feedback on your progress, connect you with leaders in the industry and help you garner support for your program’s continued success.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

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