Esports keeps growing and benefiting students


Concentration, excitement, and camaraderie mix in what is one of the most popular extracurricular student activities in Dallas ISD: esports.

Dallas ISD’s Student Activities department wanted to launch the activity in 2019 with 20 campuses, but when the department asked secondary schools if they would be interested, the response was overwhelmingly positive—62 campuses wanted to participate. The new extracurricular activity launched at those campuses with 800 students in sixth through 12th grade participating in district tournaments that year.

“We got such a great response, and then we had to look at the budget because we hadn’t budgeted for so many schools,” said Angie Nuno, Student Activities manager over the esports program. “We did our best to provide the necessary equipment to get them started.”

This year, more than 2,000 students in 94 secondary schools and almost 1,400 in 117 elementary schools have participated in the five tournaments hosted by Student Activities during the school year. These numbers don’t include all the students who participated in esports at the school level; tournament participation is capped due to limited space and resources.

“Extracurricular activities help students develop many skills that allow them to be successful in academics and life,” Sharla Hudspeth, executive director of Extracurricular and Extended Learning. “We are excited that schools and students have enthusiastically embraced esports because we want to offer options that give all students an opportunity to participate in something they are passionate about.”

Last year, esports opened to fourth- and fifth-grade students at the elementary level, Nuno said. Elementary students compete in Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Rocket League.

The same games are available at the secondary level, in addition to Fortnite.

Student Activities also provides equipment such as Nintendo Switches, games, gaming laptops, webcams, microphones, and green screens because esports is not just about competing, Nuno said. It also allows students to gain skills in casting, broadcasting, and other areas of online gaming.

Schools that want to offer esports start with a parent meeting to make them aware of what it entails and dispel any misconceptions about online gaming, Nuno said. Even though esports is not a UIL activity, the district follows the same participation requirements about attendance and grades.

“Parents are very supportive, and it’s one of the activities where we have the most parents coming to see their kids compete,” she said.

As the popularity of esports grows, the department is considering establishing a district league. Growing the activity benefits students, especially those who might not participate in UIL activities, such as traditional sports, she said.

“Esports is all about communication, team collaboration, and strategic planning because you need to have a clear plan in everything you do. It also develops leadership skills, discipline, sportsmanship, and respect, core values that are essential in life,” Nuno said. “Students gain motivation and skills that can lead to new career paths like game design, coding, and communications.”

Nuno has also seen esports be inclusive in ways other activities might not be for students who have movement limitations and who aren’t fluent in English but do speak the language of gaming.

As more colleges and universities, like the University of North Texas, offer esports scholarships, they are recruiting Dallas ISD students.

“Esports makes a difference in students’ lives,” Nuno said. “A couple of years ago, a coach shared with me that one of the students who skipped class all the time wanted to be in the esports team. Because attendance is a requirement, he started coming to class. It changed him for the better.”

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