Esports trend hits A+ Charter School

Maricopa Esports coaches work one-on-one with students in an after-school practice at A+ Charter School. | Photo by Ian Roberds

Esports is growing in popularity around the country and the world. In 2019, the video-game competitions boasted an estimated 454 million worldwide viewers and revenues over $1 billion.

A+ Charter School is in on the action, fielding its own team. The school’s dean of students, Justin Price, doubles as its esports coach.

“Esports does a lot more for kids than just playing a game and mashing buttons,” Price said. “It does teach them teamwork, collaboration, patience. What we see in game lab is a lot more than a game at home.”

There is some debate about whether esports rise to the level of a “sport,” and even some who participate aren’t sure.

“It is and isn’t at the same time,” said Alex Rickert, a member of the A+ esports team. “It is because it’s played on a professional level and there are tournaments around world playing for thousands of dollars in prize money. Some don’t consider it a sport because there is no running and jumping; there’s no physical attributes involved. But it’s definitely competitive.”

A+ athletic director and math teacher Nate Wong said esports looks a lot like traditional sports to him.

“To me, when I walk in it looks a lot like a training session,” he said. “It’s a different kind of training session; you don’t have to run suicides or anything like that, but these kids are learning fundamentals, working with coaches and learning about competition. And competition is what makes people great.”

Price believes esports have come a long way from their infancy and have become more mainstream.

“It’s more than just gaming now,” he said. “It is a legitimate team for your child to be on, where they can grow and learn valuable skills. Colleges are starting to give scholarships away for esports if they are a good player with good academics, and more important a good teammate.”

The A+ team is hosting a Super Smash Brothers Ultimate tournament Sept. 11. Teams from all over Arizona will compete for prizes in middle school, high school and college divisions. Prizes will be awarded to the top five finishers in each age group with first place winning $700.

Inaugural Versus Challenge
Who: 6th grade to 24 years old
What: Youth, teen and college esports championship
When: Sept. 11; 11 a.m. middle school, 3 p.m. high school, 7 p.m. college
Where: A+ Charter School, 41735 W. Alan Stephens Pkwy.
How: Click to register.
How much: Free for Maricopa Esports members; $15 pre-registration, $20 day-of for Maricopa residents; $20 pre-registration, $25 day-of for non-residents

This story was first published in the September edition of InMaricopa magazine.