How To Launch An Esports Team During COVID-19

How To Launch An Esports Team During COVID-19

Do you have an esports program? Has your board approved one, but you haven’t had a chance to get up and running yet? With Covid-19 and distance learning, these are definitely challenging times when it comes to getting your esports program up and running or maintaining continuity since we are unsure what school will look like in the Fall. 

 

While there are challenges, we definitely see great opportunities for esports to help us provide the needed sense of normalcy for many of our students. In fact, earlier during our time of distance learning, we published an article, “Esports: The Athletics of Remote Learning”. 

 

We are hoping this blog post will help you navigate the challenges of launching an esports team during a hybrid / remote learning model in order to still provide a meaningful esports program for students.

 

Research Guidelines

 

It is important to first determine your district guidelines for holding extracurricular activities during a modified school schedule. Some districts have made blanket statements like no extracurricular programs will be held while others are encouraging programs to run to the extent that they can amidst the pandemic. Determine how and when your team can meet virtually and any social distancing guidelines your team will need to follow if allowed to meet in-person.

 

Implementation and Communication

 

If schools are open for certain activities, it would be ideal for some components of your esports program to still take place at school using school resources. However, one thing we are learning during these times relates to flexibility. Generally speaking, esports leagues require students to play from school or from a sanctioned facility. Currently, it is important that we allow for flexibility in these matters and allow students to practice and compete from home as needed. In order to create an environment that allows for this, we need to explore tools that facilitate communication and collaboration. For our esports team last year, we set up a Google Classroom with Google Meet for live meetings as this is what students were accustomed to for their classes. This served well for announcements and discussion. We also set up a Discord server as Discord is the preferred communication platform for esports and gaming. This worked really well as we were able to have separate channels for different games, announcements, and voice chat. The esports team continued to meet regularly and between using Google Classroom / Meet and Discord we were able to effectively run our esports program virtually. 

 

If you are a member Garden State Esports, we will be providing esports competition for the upcoming school year. Still, as an esports coach, you will want to use these same tools to connect with other coaches and organizations around the country. The esportsEDU community is great! When remote learning started, esports coaches collaborated on a national level to set up matches and even weekly tournaments to provide a sense of normalcy and community for students. A special shoutout to TexSEF (the Texas Scholastic Esports Federation) and CompMC (competitive minecraft) for creating ongoing activities. In addition, NASEF (The North America Scholastic Esports Federation) partnered with Garden State Esports and The Florida Scholastic Esports League to offer a number of Competitive Minecraft Build Challenges open to people around the world that has been a great experience for students to connect with peers from home.

 

Getting Started

 

If your club is already established it is certainly easier. You likely have a roster and email addresses to notify and invite students to participate. If you have approval for an esports team but haven’t started yet, that is certainly a bit different. It is important to determine protocol for marketing extracurricular programs to students remotely. With a new school year coming up, many districts have a plan in order to provide students with the ability to find out about and sign up for activities. Ideally, a new esports program can be included in the information going out to the school community. It would be ideal to recruit interest by way of a Google Form that students could complete. It is important to survey students in terms of their interest in the program. Esports is not just about the player, but there are many ancillary opportunities for interested students. These include shoutcasting, marketing, business development (fund raising, etc), and much more. You can find out more about the variety of career pathways in the esports industry from NASEF. In addition, it is important to survey students on the types of games and modes of gameplay they are interested in competing in. It is important to provide opportunities for all students so it is important to carefully craft a survey regarding games to account for diverse interests. 

 

Practice Schedule

 

Esports should be treated like traditional sports when it comes to practice. If the program is being conducted remotely, it is important to set a regular practice schedule that includes time for play, theory crafting, strategy, and Social Emotional as well as Physical well being. 

 

Breakdown

 

Assuming you have approval to start an esports team, here are the simplified best practices for launching:

 

  1. Understand how and when you will be allowed to meet based on your school reopening plan.
  2. Create places for your esports team to meet virtually. We like Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Discord.
  3. Through available channels, let students know that the school will be launching an esports team. Consider announcing an online interest meeting at this time or using a Google Form to capture interested students’ contact information so you can follow up.
  4. During an interest meeting or followup outreach, explain the rules and code of conduct for your esports team. Consider using a survey to gauge game interest, tech access, and availability of team members.
  5. After you finalize the roster, schedule practices. Practice times should be the same day and time as they would be if kids were in school to maintain continuity if and when we return to normalcy.
  6. Game on! Continue to practice and prepare students for competition, but also be mindful to use esports as an opportunity to check in on students’ social and emotional well being.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Many traditional sports are on hold or are starting to practice but continue to be uncertain regarding how their season will look. Due to its online nature, esports can continue uninterrupted through this challenging time but it will require careful planning, dedication, and communication. Let’s embrace the idea that esports can definitely be viewed as the athletics of remote learning. Esports is growing rapidly and we can leverage that momentum especially during these times. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or require support. If you’re a NJ school, make sure you activate with us!

 

Until Next Time,

 

GLHF

 

Chris Aviles and Steve Isaacs

Chris Aviles

I'm a teacher and the co-founder of Garden State Esports

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