Community initiatives are an important part of youth development. From city rec programming to after-school initiatives, there are countless families that rely on these services to help their children develop skills, socialize with peers, and enjoy themselves in a safe environment, particularly in marginalized communities. City rec services and other youth initiatives are also important methods for maintaining structure and social support, while also being strong advocates for the next generation.
In addition to providing safe oversight, these programs are also hugely impactful when it comes to determining future participation by youth. Traditional sports recreation programs are powerful in their ability to influence future participation, particularly for those children who experience the activity at a younger age. The difficult component of these initiatives is ensuring that the participants continue to show up as they move along, something many community organizations can struggle with.
Thankfully, technological advancement and the skyrocketing popularity of video games offer a great new format for city rec programming, one that perfectly meshes with the digital reality to which the current generation of 9- to 14-year-olds is exposed: esports.
Revolutionizing Community Programs with Esport Coaching
The esports industry is quietly taking over traditional sports, both in terms of participation and viewership. Children and adolescents are not just dreaming of becoming pro basketball, football, or baseball players, but professional esports athletes as well. To address this demographic change, schools and a mix of public and private institutions are getting in on the action by creating their own esports programs.
But when it comes to preteens and middle-school-aged children, there is still a large gap between the number of kids who want to engage in esports and the number of organizations available to provide this type of programming. This provides a huge opportunity for community centers, after-school organizations, and city rec organizations looking to make an impact in the digital era.
Inner-city schools and community centers across large cities are beginning to adopt the type of innovative programming needed to foster a generation of skilled, savvy, and safe esports participants. Organizations in Philadelphia, New York City, and other large urban areas are partnering with large esports companies and taking steps to adapt their model for community engagement to address the needs of a tech-savvy generation. From athlete development to enthusiast and spectator participation, these initiatives have the potential to greatly expand the influence and impact of parks and rec initiatives across the country.
Three major facets where esports coaching has the potential to improve community programs include tech-centered learning and skills development, wider diversity and inclusion, and a more versatile program model.
Learning and Skills Development
Much of the learning that goes on in the traditional parks and recreation formats involve social skills, outdoor exploration, athletics, and collaboration. Youth from the surrounding community interact with peers outside of the traditional education systems while participating in more engaging activities. The infusion of esports into these programs adds a whole new dimension to learning and skills development.
It’s long been understood that video games are a highly engaging form of entertainment for youth. But the rise of esports popularity is now allowing researchers to study how online activities are actually beneficial to the development of cognitive and social skills. By playing against peers in a structured esports environment, children sharpen their memory and attention skills while also learning how to work as a team with their peers in an online space.
The latter is particularly significant because of the ties that video games have to other technical fields like engineering and software design. As children continue to develop their gaming skills in Rocket League leagues and other popular arenas, they are laying a foundation for productive experiences in the STEM fields down the road. And with the rapid, iterative development of these digital systems, it’s imperative that youth have the skillset to quickly adapt to new technologies. Community esports coaching initiatives are the perfect way to ensure that youth develop these skills.
Leveling the Playing Field
Although the field of esports is growing enormously across the globe, there are still many communities that don’t have the resources to participate — including many here in America. Across both urban and rural areas, access to quality internet and devices is a huge barrier for many families. Last year, the pandemic revealed that over 4 million households don’t have access to consistent computers, making online learning, exploration, and gaming very difficult to access.
For children from marginalized communities and socio-economically-strapped households, the prospects of having an expensive gaming system are slim to none. In the same way that community rec initiatives provide access to sports equipment, the introduction of youth esports coaching initiatives lets children experience the online gaming world in a productive, safe environment. This is especially important given the tendency for targeted harassment against minorities, females, those with disabilities, and members of the LGTBQ community.
Esports coaching environments make city rec programs more inclusive to all members of the surrounding community, providing the exposure and positive experiences necessary to combat the stigma and biases prevalent in online spaces.
Versatile Community Initiatives
The past year and a half have shown us all how quickly our established institutions can be disrupted — from large, multinational organizations all the way down to community rec centers. Investment in the infrastructure and equipment necessary for an esports program can help make the latter more versatile and resilient. By embracing esports as an option, city rec programs can realize some of the following benefits:
Maximizing the use of available space through digital play
Generating additional revenue for the program and driving participation
Options for remote participation during lockdowns and other disruptions
Upgrade Your Community Programming with Vanta Leagues
If you are looking to join other forward-thinking community centers in the adoption of youth esports coaching and developmental leagues, Vanta Leagues is the perfect partner for you. We are the only COPPA-compliant children’s esports league in the country and specialize in delivering structured gaming environments to youth through our experienced esports coaching staff. From Rocket League leagues to League of Legends programming, we focus on some of the most popular games for kids in the 9-14 age range.
Reach out to the Vanta Leagues team today to learn more about our services!