For esports student-athletes, the balance between the game and school work is often seen as a scale. Lean too much into the game and you miss out on your academic growth. Lean too much into academic extracurriculars and you risk missing team practices. But, what if it isn’t that binary? What if being a good student and being a good player can happen simultaneously?
When students bring esports into college counseling sessions, homework, and projects, they create an individualized and powerful academic journey. As an esports student-athlete, defining your interests, applying interdisciplinary skills, and reflecting on your goals is the best way to steady your feet and take your first steps into the real world after graduation.
If you’ve chosen to join an esports team, it is pretty obvious that something about video games interests you. Don’t stop at what is obvious. Dive deeper. (Yes, we want you to bust out a diary now. This is the time of your life when journaling about your experiences and interests is crucial. Getting it out of your head and on paper makes it clearer.)
As an esports student-athlete, use these prompts to help define your trajectory:
- What about competitive play do I enjoy? What about competitive play do I not enjoy?
- Do I want to play esports in college? If yes, what skills (in the game and academically) do I need?
- If you do not play in college or professionally, do I still want to work in the esports or video game industry? If yes, what careers are in esports besides “player”?
Defining your interest tells you how much time you should be focusing on specific skill development. If you want to be a full-time competitive player in college, maybe joining a computer science club at your school isn’t necessary? But, for another student-athlete, what if they like playing esports but consistently find themselves opening PCs and learning how computers are built? Perhaps they should diversify their extracurricular experience and join the club. These questions are not designed to be solved in one night. (Spoiler alert, many adults are still asking themselves these same “big life” questions, too.) The key is asking the questions and having a strong sense of what makes you happy and what doesn’t. As a student-athlete, you’re fortunate to have college counselors, coaches, or teachers that can help you define a path in school and after graduation. When you take the time to shine a light on yourself and your goals, you make it that much easier for a mentor to see what you need to get there.
QUICK TIP: It is never too early to start reaching out to the real world. If you’re in middle or high school but see someone doing a job you’re fascinated by, have a teacher or coach help you email them. Ask them anything you’d like about their job (i.e. what classes did you take to grow your skills, what strategies did you use to play better, etc.). Worst case scenario: the person doesn’t reply. That’s ok. You’ll never get a reply unless you try. And if they do, you’ll have a new contact in an industry that may be your future.
If someone has ever told you to “apply yourself more.” What they are actually saying is to take all of your knowledge and bring it to your current task. As an esports player, you have a plethora of knowledge. Unfortunately, traditional school isn’t always designed around video games. Therefore, it becomes your job to apply esports and video games (aka, your passions/knowledge) to your school work – make school work for you.
In esports, you’re learning a wide range of soft and hard skills. Soft skills are things like teamwork, communication, or leadership. These are things that can be used easily in any environment. For example, if you are working on a group project in a History class, don’t think of it as different from your League of Legends team working together. Use communication strategies (tone of voice, empathy, listening) the same way you would on your team. You may notice that your History group class may emulate your leadership and guidance, ultimately becoming more efficient problem-solvers.
Hard skills are sometimes referred to as technical skills. If you’re playing Rocket League, for example, you’re learning strategies to dribble, achieve aerials, or block. It is kind of hard to bring a ,musty flick mechanic into a History class. But, what if you’re allowed to choose your topic on a history project? Find a way to focus on video games or technology. Maybe talk about streamers' role in shaping a game’s financial success? Your background knowledge of how games (or esports, in general) work give you an edge for bringing something new into your core subjects. You may even enjoy your homework if you make it about a topic you love, too.
Being proud of yourself is easier said than done. Maturity is a lot of things, but one way people grow up is by celebrating things they did well and working on things they did wrong. If you are consistently winning esports competitions, congratulate yourself, but don’t think you’re invincible. Ask yourself what skills are helping you achieve this success. Continue to honestly ask yourself what more could you succeed.
In life, beyond school and grades, everyone will be on their own path. Odds are, someone is going to beat you or know more than you. If you get something wrong, own it. In your 7th grade year, maybe you realized that you spent too much time in competitions and ignored another passion in another subject. Accept that realization and pivot. Have your coaches and teachers help make a schedule for your 8th grade year that better incorporates esports and your other passions.
Balance is never just a two-sided scale. It is more like juggling tennis balls that are all on fire (just kidding). For student-athletes, the balance between your sport and school occurs when you allow esports to be a part of your academic journey. Don’t keep playing and learning separate – when you let them happen together, it makes you an individual capable of defining your goals, applying your knowledge, and reflecting on what makes you, you.
With a degree in English from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa (UHM), Tzana Saldania is passionate about science and communication. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Center for Advancing Education at Mid-Pacific Institute and has worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Hawaii’s Perception and Attention Psychology Laboratory, aiding in research related to Statistical Learning in video game players.