This time last year, Kids in the Game was getting ready to launch the first ever middle school esports program at four schools in Harlem and Upper Manhattan. While as a team, we were confident we were launching the first program of this type in New York City, we got an extra nudge of validation when we were featured in Fortune as being the first middle school league in the nation!
Now a year later, our unique program model has remained the same. We are still pushing the envelope on what an esports program can look like as a middle school sport team while combining esports with traditional sport activity. While our model stays consistent, this year we have welcomed new schools, expanded to new games and created unique gaming experiences. Here are some of the highlights.
An Independent school located in the Financial District joined the Kids in the Game Esports program in September. As we all know, space is at a premium in New York City, but Leman made the program work by using their art gallery as an esports practice space, proving that space does not be a barrier to starting this program. Leman will be participating in all 3 seasons of the program allowing different kids to participate each season and allowing flexibility if a participant plays basketball in the winter, they can still participate in the Fall and Spring seasons.
This is also SBS’s first year participating in the program and they will also be participating in all three seasons of the program. The program is offered as part of the school’s robust after school enrichment program – but that does not take away from the team aspect of the program. Like the other schools in the program the SBS participants meet their coach 2-times per week and work through drills and video gaming skills before they can jump right into playing. The kids then transition into the gym to replicate those drills/skills in the physical activity portion of the practice. By having a designated coach and practice plan creates a true team atmosphere and positive mentor-peer relationships.
In year one of our league the two games featured were NBA2K and FIFA. Moving into year two, we expanded by adding a third game, Rocket League. Popularly described as “soccer with cars”, Rocket League is a step into more traditional esports play while also staying true to our identity as a sports-based organization. In the physical activity portion of each practice the kids play a variation of European Handball with soccer and volleyball skills mixed in.
New Gaming Experience
At the end of each season, our schools come together to compete against each other in a season final match. This fall we were lucky to be able to use the Microsoft Gaming Studios for the FIFA season finals. The kids were able to experience what it would be like to be a professional esports player with headsets, video streaming, and a system setup that is hard to rival in New York City. While we are proud to have started an innovative program for middle schools in New York City, we are more proud to be able to offer unique new experiences to kids through our programs. We are looking forward to our continued relationship with Microsoft.
Currently, our league is in the middle of the Winter Rocket League season and are looking forward to a great Spring season of NBA2K and basketball! We are also in the process of getting our program model’s curriculum licensed as well as offering professional developments in the space. We look forward to increasing our reach and setting schools across the nation up for successful, productive, and active esports programs.