PITTSBURG — Video game competitions are a growing activity known as esports in schools across the nation.


Pittsburg Community Middle School students have their own Dragon Esports team, and the district recently recruited a high school team. The students already have competed against other schools all across the United States.


In esports, people play a game using teamwork and collaboration during a live video. One part of the team plays the game, and "shoutcasters" watch their team in a soundproof room with monitors and recording equipment to commentate.


The students must go to tryouts through the Gamers Club in order to join what they call the Rocket League team. Rocket League is the game they play, where they basically use cars for soccer. The students even can get scholarships for college.


Some might raise a brow to video games as a sport, but it is an educational experience, supporters say, and has been sanctioned as a sport across the United States and in other countries.


"You wouldn’t tell a kid that basketball or art is a waste of time, so you wouldn’t tell kids video games are a waste of time," said Joe Hugo, PCMS teacher and a general manager for the team. "That’s where they are at, and that’s where they are most comfortable, and so we want to take that and put it in an educational setting so that we can provide organization and structure in a safe, online environment."


The students are not just playing video games, said Jamie Howard, one of the general managers for the team. They are learning key principles, as with any other sport, such as teamwork, collaboration, leadership and communication.


"It also gives the school district an opportunity to reach students who normally would not be reached by athletic-styled activities," Howard said.


The students start by learning about digital citizenship. They do drills and scrimmages, then they review their film like traditional sports teams do, Hugo said.



PCMS Dragons vs Greensburg JH Pirates Match 2 from Pittsburg Community Schools on Vimeo.


Having an opportunity to be part of a group that included technology prompted seventh grade student Kenny Patel to join the team.


"I feel like it’s a great way to interact with others and make the game more fun and learn a bit more about what’s going to happen," he said. "I learn how to speak to people that I don’t see because I’m commentating on the game and learning keywords to use when a game is going on. I feel like it was a great way to get together and do the things that I love to do without being alone at home."


His teammate Caroline Sharbutt, also in seventh grade, agreed.


"I just really like video games," she said. "I thought it’d be really cool to play competitively."