WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Esports, a competitive electronic sport using video games, is gaining momentum as a beneficial outlet for students across the region.

As a way to promote esports programs, Region One Education Service Center (ESC) Division of Technology Solution united teachers and administrators for the inaugural esports summit at the Region One ESC Conference Center.

The seminar not only highlighted the benefits the program offers students, but it gave attendees advice on how to build their own esports program within their districts.

For districts that have already established an esports program, such as Weslaco East High School, this seminar served as a way to discover ideas on how to successfully grow their already existing programs.

“At Weslaco East High School, we have a few systems that were purchased by the school, so at this presentation, I am really looking forward to listening to more about the funding resources that are available,” said Weslaco East High School teacher Max Mata. “I’m hoping to get funding ideas so that we can purchase new equipment or fingers crossed, an entire esports lab.”

Along with sessions like “Funding Your eSports Program,” participants attended multiple other sessions such as “eSports: From Student Club to Athletic Program,” “Equipment and Technology Requirements,” and even “Player Recruitment and Gaming PC Building.”

Adrian Garcia, Deputy Director at Region One, states, “It’s been shown that gaming is actually beneficial for the students, especially those students that are not as involved in other activities at the school district.” 

While the program strengthens students’ skills such as critical thinking, decision-making, and independent skills, teachers like Mata have also seen an increase in their student’s academic performance.

“When we did run our esports program, I had a good chunk of students that were part of the team. But they had been failing,” said Mata. “And then once they saw others compete, and get to the playoffs, they said, ‘We need to do this, too.’ By the end of the year, they passed everything.” 

Although gaming may seem like a source of fun, it’s evident there’s more to esports than simply playing video games.

Students have also recognized the opportunities esports programs provide even in their future careers.

South Texas ISD student Matthew Valdez, shared with ValleyCentral, “Esports provides you so much better opportunities because now, colleges are starting to see it. If you think you’re good at video games, try out. If you get far enough, you can even get full-ride scholarships, like any other sport into colleges, and it helps you so much.” 

Esports has introduced an array of benefits to Rio Grande Valley school districts and their students. Garcia said Region One plans to host a regional esports competition in 2023, which will open many more opportunities for students that participate.