Esports remains the fastest-growing sport among high schools and colleges. More educators and parents are beginning to realize that the positives of gaming far outweigh the negatives.
“Competitive esports is reaping the benefits that many of the traditional sports offer in terms of leadership development and engaging students in the school community,” says Dr. Jay Prescott, the Executive Director of the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD).
As each year passes, students who don’t have esports offered at their school feel a lack of belonging and experience academic issues. The learning curve is generally steep for how to properly bring esports to a school and create a healthy, positive experience for all.
On March 3-5, 2021, the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors will be hosting its fourth-annual NAECAD Clinic, held virtually. With more than 50 sessions, there is learning to take place, whether one is a part of an established program or just at the exploration stage.
Attendees typically consist of directors, coaches, activities directors, administrators, and other leadership positions on a campus, those who have a desire for advancing the student experience and student development.
This three-day virtual event will consist of keynote speakers, panel sessions, and round-table discussions presented by leaders within the esports industry, including many coaches and directors at the high school and collegiate levels.
The NAECAD continues to play an integral part by placing intentional efforts on equipping coaches and directors at the club, high school, collegiate, and professional levels.
While the keynote sessions cover topics at the macro level, breakout sessions are tailored to high schools and colleges, and cover both established and new programs. Like many clinics, the networking opportunities always seems to be an attendee favorite.
It is important to have a community where individuals can celebrate successes, discuss frustrations, and share ideas. Often times, constituents on a campus do not quite understand esports at an adequate level to provide the necessary support. This results in leaders of a program with no place to turn and trying to figure things out on their own. The combination of all program structures and support looking differently, and little to no past history, makes running a successful program difficult as leaders are seeking support and guidance.
In more established sports, a person with the desire to coach will enter in a lower-level position and learn from veteran coaches, gradually working their way up to become a head coach. In esports, many with a desire to coach are instantly leading their program and becoming a head coach without any experience other than possibly gaming experience.
There are so many pieces that must come together in order to run a successful program, and learning from others can accelerate the process. When one person or team struggles in a given area, there is likely somebody out there who does that area well and can provide appropriate insight and guidance.
The NAECAD welcomes anyone passionate about competitive esports to become part of this community to help grow the sport so more gamers can reap the benefits competitive esports has to offer beyond just the game.
The NAECAD is continuously looking for ways to bring value to its members and remain at the epicenter of leadership, advocacy, and professional development.
Its NAECAD Certification Program, for example, provides quality and accessible professional development for competitive esports leaders who want to improve their knowledge and track their learning. The certification program creates a context of professional development to assist organizations hiring high school, college, and professional level esports coaches and directors and formalizes certification levels to be recognized within the competitive esports ecosystem.
“As with any association, power comes from its members’ engagement and contributions,” Prescott says.
For those who are interested, a NAECAD annual membership only costs $150 and features an amazing array of benefits:
- A ticket to the annual NAECAD National Convention each year
- A $1 million personallLiability insurance policy
- Free subscriptions to newsletters and publications
- Nominations for your program or players for National Players of the Year and All-American Awards
- Discounted prices for the NAECAD Certification Program (NAECAD-CP)
By bringing together the leaders within competitive esports and producing a strong, unified voice, the end result will be creating a positive, transformational experience for the countless student/athletes who consider esports their community.
Jason Bauer is the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA.