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Message: Esports proves not all athletes are created equal

Students compete in esports. (Photo: Joan Boiko/Special to The Desert Sun)

When we think of the typical athlete, we think a player on a field or court, runner and jumper on a track or swimmer in a pool. The newest emerging athlete is not one you will find in any of these places. No this athlete — though no less serious or committed to his or her sport — can be found behind a computer engaging with teammates in a nonphysical way. This is the world of Esports, and some Palm Springs Unified secondary students are embracing the opportunity to hone their skills and compete for prizes, cash and even full-ride college scholarships.

“Our hope is to connect with a community of students that sometimes feel ignored and shed light on their skills and achievements through esports,” said Eduardo Rivera, a technology teacher on special assignment for Palm Springs Unified School District. He is part of the team that is launching the program in the District with a few interested students at Edward Wenzlaff Learning Center last January. By May, the program had its first intradistrict competition with teams from Painted Hills Middle School, Desert Springs Middle School, Mount San Jacinto High School, and Palm Springs High School. This fall teams will be added from Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs and Rancho Mirage High Schools as well.

Technology teacher on special assignment Eduardo Rivera, left, and Director of Technology Services Will Carr check out tournament progress on the big screen. (Photo: Joan Boiko/Special to The Desert Sun)

Several of the competitors took advantage of Rivera’s summer league pilot program. The two teams competed in tournaments with one team from Mount San Jacinto High School with a 3-2 record and the other (from Desert Sands Unified School District) with a 4-1 record. Playoffs for the summer league begin Sept. 2, before the summer league concludes. 

The new opportunities are already having a positive impact on esports athletes who hope it will open new doors for them in their future. 

“I have been playing (video) games most of my life,” said Juan Leon, an Mount San Jacinto student, who has been winning most of his tournaments. “I’ve been thinking about becoming a live streamer. I’m already good at this, so I figured I might as well make something out of it.”

“It’s a really nice way to meet people,” said Palm Desert High student Dillen Johnson. “Using this league will help me with college opportunities. They might be somewhat more interested in me.”

Summer esports in action. (Photo: Joan Boiko/Special to The Desert Sun)

Palm Springs Unified has partnered with the North American Scholastic Esports Federation. The Federation provides an online portal allowing the site club coaches to manage their teams and access coaching materials and resources. Outside of the tournaments conducted through the Federation, the District teams will also compete in mini-tournaments throughout the school year. The participants will be competing in five video games including League of Legends, Overwatch, Smash Brothers, Rocket League and Hearthstone. Team members, who do not even need to be in the same physical location during practice or competitive play, communicate with each other and their competitors in a virtual gaming environment on the computer. 

“The goal is for us to reach some of those students who are normally not connected to other school activities or sports and give them an environment in which they can be the team captain or a leader among their peers,” said Director of Educational Technology and Information Services Will Carr.

Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications and Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 883-2701, ext. 2.

Source: https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/neighbors/2019/08/29/esports-proves-not-all-athletes-created-equal/2160600001/

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