Preston Gardner, Kyle Olson, Tyler Normington
At Palmer Hamilton, we strive to provide quality furniture and décor solutions that help K-12 schools do more with their space. Our true mission, however, is to deliver environments that encourage collaboration and give every student a place where they feel welcomed and supported.
This mission was the driving factor in developing Palmer Hamilton’s new partnership with RESPAWN, a supplier of high-quality furniture for esports. The esports industry has grown exponentially over the past few decades, and its influence has had an impact on K-12 schools with many schools adding video games as learning tools in curriculum and offering competitive esports teams as an extracurricular opportunity for students. As this presence continues to grow, having a dedicated space for esports can ensure that a new demographic of students finds a home within the school and resources they can use to find future success in a growing industry
Inclusion for Today
A 2019 survey taken by the Aspen Institute for Project Play, a non-profit that works to develop healthy communities through sports, found that in 2018 only 38 percent of kids ages 6 to 12 played a team sport on a regular basis with the average child quitting sports entirely by age 11.1 Esports players see even lower participation rates in sports. Through its work with the Wisconsin High School Esports Association (WIHSEA), RESPAWN has found that 80 percent or more of the members in most esports programs do not participate in another team activity.
For the majority of these kids, esports are a chance to reap the social, mental and emotional health benefits of being on a team that they would not traditionally find. According to Health.gov, these benefits can include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher cognitive function and even a reduced risk of suicide.2 This makes driving participation and supporting those who are already involved in esports an important responsibility for school administrations.
Getting students excited about esports starts with creating the right environment. A basketball program would not thrive if the playing space consisted of an outdoor, concrete court with a portable hoop. Players want a proper court with team colors on the walls, equipment they are excited to use every day and school pride exhibited throughout the space.
Esports is the same.
Many students who would be interested in joining an esports team likely already have a setup at home. Schools that develop an esports space with companies like Palmer Hamilton and RESPAWN offer replicated or even elevated performance spaces to invite student participation. School imagery can also be incorporated throughout the space to foster the pride and belonging that come with participating in an organized team activity for kids who may not always see themselves as representatives of their school’s spirit.
As schools embark on developing an esports space, Palmer Hamilton encourages them to consult with all stakeholders, including the students who will use it. Not only does this help them take further ownership of the space, but it also offers an opportunity for input from people who may want to get involved but are hesitant due to lack of representation. This is especially pertinent for young women. Though esports has become more even in the gender makeup, the population is still largely male dominated. Inviting women and students from other non-majority demographics to make their mark on the space from the beginning helps give everyone who wants to participate a welcoming environment.
Careers for Tomorrow
In many cases, the activities that kids participate in during their days in K-12 are much more than fun ways to pass the time. Thousands of former high school athletes are now playing professionally, coaching or finding other ways to turn their passion into a lifelong career.
An interest in esports opens the door to more career opportunities than almost any other school activity. Market Watch reported in 2021 that the video games industry grew to surpass the combined market share of both film and North American sports, and the jobs in this massive enterprise are both numerous and lucrative.3 Having the resources and support for students can help them find and build careers they are passionate about.
Esports spaces can also be part of a larger effort to encourage students in STEM/STEAM fields. Having a full room dedicated to esports in the school would be ideal but may not be viable with budget and space constraints. Instead, schools can work with brands that specialize in STEM/STEAM, such as PHabLab, to create multi-purpose spaces for both experiential learning and extracurricular activities. Either way, this makes participation in a variety of potential fields of learning, new extracurriculars and eventual career paths much more attractive and attainable for every student.