Esports at BRES made possible by generous donation

Mon, 03/27/2023 - 11:30am

Boothbay Region Elementary School has launched its newest sports program this year: Middle School esports. This was made possible by a generous donation made by Peggy and Tony Kotin to the Boothbay Region Education Fund for this specific project. BRES Principal Shawna Kurr presented to BREF in the fall of 2022 stating that, “we are fortunate to have these generous funds and be able to be one of the very first middle schools in the state of Maine to offer esports to our students.

Esports is a rapidly growing activity in middle schools, high schools, and at colleges and universities worldwide. Students compete in team and solo competitions against other schools in games such as Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Hearthstone, Madden, NBA2K and more. The team has co-advisors, Jeremy and Lacey Phelps, who are teachers at the school.

BRES’s Middle School team, dubbed the Seacats, competed on the PlayVS platform in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate in the fall season. Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, or “Smash,” is a fighting game in which players face off in 1 vs. 1 battles against their opponents using characters from a variety of video game franchises. Team members included Sabine Pochee, Meredith Ames, Jesse Major, Casey Phelps, Riley Mullins, and Samuel Ware. Competition was fierce against teams from all over the country – Georgia, Virginia, New Jersey, California, and more. Although this was the first time competing in an official esports league, Boothbay players held
their own.

In the spring season, the team is switching gears to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Whereas Smash had players facing off in 1 vs. 1 battles, Mario Kart competitions will be 4 vs. 4 team competitions. Communication and teamwork will be even more important for players to succeed this season. Both skills are benefits of all esports, an organized activity with which many are unfamiliar.

Jeremy Phelps said, “Something we try to stress to players is that although we are here to have fun, like any school activity, esports is not ‘gaming club.’ The goal, like a traditional sport, is to improve skills at an activity while building social skills, teamwork, and being part of a team and community.”

The PlayVS website touts the benefits of esports: “Esports requires a tremendous amount of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity from players to achieve and sustain success. It reaches beyond traditional sports to create an all-inclusive environment that breaks barriers.” Another benefit is that students can participate in a shared interest along with access to positive adult mentors. As teachers, the Phelps’ have an ultimate goal of students’ success in all areas, not the least of which is academic. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that students who participate in extracurricular activities score higher on math
and reading assessments than those who do not.

Along the way students will face challenges and stressful situations common to all sports. Being able to handle success as well as failures are important attributes of well rounded students and people – these attributes “are exactly what employers and colleges are telling high schools they are looking for in recent graduates.”

At BRES, students are also held to the same high standards as athletes who participate in basketball, baseball, or other school sports.

Students spent preseason honing their skills at launching red shells, dropping banana peels, and drifting around corners while racing through Wario’s Gold Mine, Bower’s Castle, and Rainbow Road. Their regular season started briefly before the school’s issues with frozen pipes and have had to find alternate locations. Despite not having their original home base, students have adapted to competing within the walls of a makeshift kindergarten classroom at the BRHS. The Seacats (Lee, Ronan, Meredith, and Casey) recently won their first ever game! With the confidence of win number one under their belt, the team is anticipating more wins. The season runs through the first week of April, and then, perhaps playoffs?

The money provided by the donors will fund replacement technology for a few years as this program gets up and running.