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Expanding interests for a new generation

SJP Students In Masks Sit At Computers In Lab

Building Life Skills Through Esports

With technology continuing to advance, and virtual worlds becoming more significant in our daily lives, after-school sports are beginning to look a little different as well. While in the past, Saint John’s Prep’s athletic teams focused on physical activities like basketball and soccer, we have expanded into a new sport that is taking our students to new heights — through Esports.

Bringing a middle and high school Esports league to our students

We launched our Esports program in 2019 with just 20 students and one title. Since we introduced the program, it has grown to include 60 students who play across five titles.

Today, any student can join the team to play and compete in the following titles:

  • League of Legends
  • Minecraft
  • Rocket League
  • Valorant
  • Chess

All of the titles we support require teamwork, and we continue to add titles (teen-rated or lower) to our offerings based on student requests.

More than just video games

While it might be easy to assume that Esports is the same as playing video games at home, we believe that there is so much more to this sport than meets the eye.

“Comparing video games and Esports is similar to comparing playing a game of H-O-R-S-E to competing in basketball,” says Charles Miller, head coach of the Esports program. “While playing a schoolyard game requires a basic skill, competing in the game requires teamwork, practice, and dedication to compete. The same can be said of Esports.”

Like other sports, Esports teaches skills that can often only be taught in a team sport environment, including:

  • Perseverance
  • Work ethic
  • Teamwork and cooperation
  • Sportsmanship
  • Strategy

And just like any other sport we offer, our Esports coaches encourage and help students balance their interests with their education and other commitments.

Sjp Students Pose With Finals Sign At Esports Competition

Centered around inclusivity

Esports are arguably the most inclusive sport we offer at Saint John’s Prep. Because it is so accessible, Esports serve as a valuable tool for uniting communities, from race and gender to mobility and ability levels. Our middle and upper schools students even practice together on their respective titles, bringing together age groups and skill levels. Through Esports, we have seen students come together in a way that other sports, or sitting at home and playing video games, could never do.

In fact, when COVID-19 hit, every Saint John’s Prep sports team had to forego their practices and tournaments — with the exception of our Esports team. Because our students could still meet up online to practice and compete, and our coaches could still support and offer guidance remotely, the team was able to compete in the state tournament.

A healthy level of competition

The Twin Cities Metro has seen Esports grow exponentially over the past few years, providing more opportunities for local competition. The Minnesota Varsity League continues to grow alongside our own Esports program, bringing together students from across the state. And our League of Legends team finished second place in the 2020 state championship.

While Saint John’s Prep is a smaller school compared to many of the other schools with competitive Esports teams in the state, we were the first school in Minnesota to award Esports players varsity letters.
“Esports often hasn’t been viewed as a ‘real sport’ and I felt like it was my job to change that,” said Miller. “Today, we remain the smallest high school to ever make it to the Esports Central Division Finals to compete in League of Legends.”

As interest in Esports grows, there are also national opportunities that students can be a part of when they compete. For example, our students have competed against almost 100 other schools in the national PlayVS League of Legends program.

Setting students up for success

In a world where so much cyberbullying can occur behind screens, Esports is a healthy way for students to develop their gaming skills while also exercising social-emotional learning skills. And what students learn through Esports is reflected in the classroom. Studies have shown that students in Esports leagues see improved grades and are also more likely to be successful in STEM than they were prior to joining an Esports team.

The reality is that some of our students can (and will) continue to participate in Esports after they graduate. Today, there are more than 100 colleges that offer Esports scholarships. Already, we have students who have received scholarships to play for collegiate Esports teams. It is simply the way of the future, and we are eager to continue supporting this growing sport for all interested students.

Wondering what it looks like to participate in Esports? Watch our team compete via live streaming. If you have questions about our Esports program or want to learn more, contact Coach Charles Miller at C1MILLER@sjprep.net.

Ready to see what else awaits your student at St. John’s Prep?