Virtual Games Yield Tangible Skills

University School’s newest club, Wildcats Esports, fosters communication, collaboration, and sportsmanship through video games.

The days of video games getting a bad rap may be numbered. Following in the footsteps of area universities, USM has established the Wildcats Esports club in which Upper School students play team-based and individual competitive video games. In its first year, the club had more than 20 members and maintained practices and competitions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The club competes against high schools around the country in a variety of games, including Minecraft and Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and all Upper School students are invited to participate regardless of skill. “The club is very multi-level,” said Dr. Laurie Walczak, Upper School English teacher and club faculty advisor. “We have kids who have been playing together for years, and other kids who have never played before. We welcome every student.”

Because the club does not yet have a dedicated space on campus, students met virtually to practice and compete. And while they were not able to meet face-to-face, they still gained all of the benefits of being on a team. “We’re constantly communicating with each other, giving call-outs, directions, etc.,” said Kevin Hildebrand ’22, a student leader for the team. “It’s better than just playing alone because we’re getting a lot of community interaction. We’re also developing our time management skills and we help
each other with homework questions, too.” Like any club at USM, students must maintain a certain grade point average to participate.

The club is a great opportunity for students who may not enjoy physical sports, or who may only do sports for a portion of the school year, to participate in a competitive, team setting. “As their coach, I observe all of the games,” said Walczak. “And I can tell you their communication skills, collaboration skills, sportsmanship skills, leadership skills, are really amazing. All of the things we talk about with traditional sports—the teambuilding, character development, sportsmanship—all of those qualities
absolutely apply here.”

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