This email we recieved sums up why we do what we do. Shared with permission. Enjoy!
This is an email I have been wanting to send for a while but after this weekend and state finals falling on World Autism Day I knew it was the perfect time. I struggled with who to address it to, Mrs. Sellers knows how much I appreciate all she does but it is always nice to hear it again. I thought it is great she knows but administration should hear the impact of E-Sports directly from a family. So if I bounce around who I am addressing I apologize!
This weekend my son, Jack participated in the E-Sports Winter State Finals. Most of you know Jack or of Jack but just in case I will speak as if you do not. Jack is a 16 year old sophomore in Barnegat High School taking both AP and special education classes. Jack also happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome (now high functioning Autism but he was grandfathered into his diagnosis and prefers it), ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Jack was a child with a one-on-one aid, he struggled immensely with impulse control, appropriate social interactions, extreme sensory overload and when deciding between fight or flight one never knew what he would choose. We had tried organized sports for Jack, soccer specifically and it did not go well. For a kid like Jack, it was confusing. We spent hours reminding him you cannot take things from your friends and then put him in a uniform and threw him on a field and expected him to do the exact opposite and even worse to not react when others did it to him! We found Challenger league baseball was a better fit and he participated for a few years and we were grateful. Jack finally found Boy Scouts and is currently a Life Scout working on an Eagle project. Scouts was a great fit; he was able to earn awards and feel accomplished and we were grateful for the program. However, it did not give him team experience, winning together and losing together, it is very individual.
This brings me to E-Sports in the high school. Jack joined this year and immediately jumped in full force. He was a JV member of the Rocket League team and ran some stats for the league. He was so excited to attend the Winter finals and cheer on the team as they competed on the “main stage” for a state title! Who is this kid willingly getting on a bus on a Saturday to go on a school event?! He texted me updates all day and I could feel his excitement through his texts. He came home hoarse from cheering them on. I was beyond grateful for the program and to get the opportunity to see Jack involved in the high school. Now I will tell you, his involvement was all Mrs. Sellers. Jack was placed in her Computer Science class as a freshman and then he joined Cyber Patriot with her as his advisor. He is willing to join anything she offers and will do anything she needs him to do. She has helped him to find his career path in Computer Science. The Winter season of E-Sports Jack was placed on the Varsity Knock Out City team and began staying after school 3 days a week. Now I have seen comments and get that people do not understand, why is E-Sports a “varsity” sport, it is just video gaming. I may have thought that had I not had Jack. I have had the privilege of driving the Knock Out City team home from practices or matches. I have watched all season 4 boys form a team that looks very much like the traditional sports teams my daughter is on. They get in the car and talk about practice, what they will do at the next, how they can improve, they offer tips, they encourage each other, they beat each other up when one didn’t perform well. After finals, another mom took them to Applebees and they celebrated their successful season. THEY ARE A TEAM. On Friday, Jack came home the most excited I have ever seen him with his very first actual team jersey with his name on it! He was beyond proud. And I was beyond grateful.
On Saturday our entire family got in the car and drove to Rider University to watch Jack play at States. We are used to this for our daughter who is a competitive gymnast, but this was all knew for us for Jack. I didn’t know what to expect but man, were we impressed! It was such an amazing set up. Garden State Esports went all out and made it like any other States event we have attended. It was the real deal! The Barnegat casting team and commentators were AMAZING all day long. 8 hours worth of casting and commentating! I was so excited for Jack! But, I was concerned. Jack has never competed anything in front of an audience, on a large scale and has never felt the pressure of that arena or teammates counting on him. I spent the week trying to gently remind him of the opposite possibility than he had in his head, losing. I reminded him that absolute worst-case scenario was 2nd in the state and how that in itself was a HUGE accomplishment. I could tell he was not having it. He had built this moment up. I was concerned because as far as Jack has come, that impulsive kid is still in there and I was worried of that in front of an audience. What if he had a meltdown? Could he regulate his senses if he went into overload? As they fell behind, they banged the beat to “We will Rock you” on the table to amp themselves up something Mr. Saar has made as their chant, it was awesome. They were rallying hard AS A TEAM. As the match went on and I realized they were not going to win and the moment they lost I watched from the sidelines Mr. Saar comfort him, console him and his teammate in the same scenario and within seconds pull Jack and the other boy out of it. I shed a tear. HIS COACH HAD HIM, HE HAS A COACH! I saw Mrs. Sellers standing behind them heartbroken for them. I think we all wanted it hard for this group in particular. I felt the love and pride from the stands that they had for these kids. More realization, this is a sport! The Bengals stood up and shook the hands of the winners and congratulated them the way a team does. They chatted outside the arena and expressed to each other how good both teams were. I was so proud of this little team. I still am in awe of them today! If there was any doubt E-Sports deserves its spot as an organized sport, there was no longer. The part that really got me was after 12 hours of being out of the house for States, Jack came home on the bus and immediately went to dinner with two other friends he has made on the E-Sports team this year. THIS is what E-Sports is creating. Forget state titles and varsity letters, Jack is forming friendships in that computer lab every day. He is staying after school, involved in high school and making friendships. The value of that to these kids is unmeasurable. THIS is what you Mrs. Sellers and you Mr. Saar are creating. I can never express enough the appreciation we have for you both and what you are building for kids who may never have had these high school experiences.
It is Spring season now and Jack is not playing on a team, rather he is commentating 3 days a week for the other teams. More who is this kid?! He is live on a feed 3 days a week speaking, and he is rocking it! Staying after school until sometimes after 5pm to perform his role in the Spring season. My child who still struggles with social anxiety and lacks self-confidence is putting himself out there everyday in ways I never thought he would, and it is because of E-Sports. I am proud of Barnegat School District for being on the cutting edge in the movement to bring inclusion to our children that may not be “traditional” athletes. I am grateful to Mrs. Sellers and Mr. Saar for providing the environment for these kids to learn and grow and bond and feel included in a world they may not have had the chance to before. And I am gratefule that Garden States E-Sports saw a need for our kids and fulfilled it. Your dedication to your players is beyond appreciated and so very needed for so many kids. More than just those involved in E-Sports, should know it. Thank you is never enough. I haven’t even mentioned the insane technology these kids are running, seriously how impressive are these kids?!
So to conclude a very long email (it had to be for you to feel the real impact) I am a firm believer that if you are quick to complain when something is wrong (many of you in this email chain has gotten an email or two like that from me, HA) than you better be equally as quick to praise when things are going right. Thank you all for bringing the program to the high school, for believing in it and giving it the needs to be successful. Barnegat E-Sports is making an impact. Garden State E-Sports is making an impact. It is not just’ gaming’ happening in E-Sports and I wanted to show that. Lifelong memories are being made, friendships are being formed, careers are being discovered, amazing and hard life lessons are being learned and you should all feel pride in giving this to these students!
Thank you again.
Proud mom of 2nd in the state KO City Player 😊 (whether he is proud or not LOL)