Video games helping some kids get full-ride scholarships to college

May 02, 2019 06:20 PM

When you think of young athletes hoping to go pro, you probably think of baseball or basketball - maybe figure skating. How about - video games?

If you have a young gamer in your home, there's a whole new world of opportunities available to them -- college scholarships, paid positions on professional teams -- even jobs as video game sportscasters.


There's been an explosion of the esports industry - and you can help your kids take advantage of it.

Before you yell down the stairs and tell your kids to turn off those blasted video games, consider this. All that gaming and all that chatter on those headsets could wind up sending them to college for free.

"Yeah, this is becoming a big thing," said Tammy Street of Clifton Park.

She has four boys. They all like video games. A few years ago, her son Josh came to her before high school graduation and said instead of going right to college, he wanted to play video games. That took her and her husband - somewhat - by surprise.

The boys explained that esports - competitive team based video gaming - was exploding, with actual professional teams where you get paid to play. So, they let Josh take a chance.

"We decided to let him have a gap year. So he took a year off between high school and college to focus on trying to break into the gaming industry," explained Tammy.
Josh didn't join a professional team, but he got good enough to do something even better – earn a full-ride scholarship.

The Shenendehowa grad is now a junior at Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania, where he's a member of "The Storm." That's the school's varsity esports team. They gave him a full scholarship because he's a really good gamer.

"It may not be the most impactful thing in the world, but it gets me a chance to get through college debt-free and just get a kick start on my life," he noted.

Josh plays "League of Legends," - a popular e-sport - and one that brought teams from around the Northeast to Albany last month for Hudson Valley Gamercon.

Make no mistake about it. These aren't casual club activities. These are official varsity teams - coached and organized like traditional sports - and played before thousands of fans.

Collegiate esports is booming.

"To the point where there's over 500 colleges now that have an esports program on their campus," pointed out Dennis McDonald, the vice president of student affairs at the College of Saint Rose, where they're adding their own intercollegiate esports team in the fall.

They've already hired a coach, Dan Marino. Not THAT Dan Marino - and are in the process of converting a former dining hall into their esports arena, which will feature 24 high-end gaming PCs.

Marino says it will also have space for a coaching station - even a sort of press booth for esports-casters. Scholarships will be available.

"Just like most other athletic programs, there will be scholarships available certainly at Saint Rose and I'm sure at the other institutions to help attract students to come and participate in our program," explained McDonald.

So how can your kids score an esports scholarship?  First, practice – but not just at home.

An esports arena just recently opened its doors in Schenectady, called Gaming Insomniacs. They're giving young gamers a chance to experience the kind of team play that's happening at the college level. There's scholarship money available there, too. In a high school tournament next month, students will be competing for $5,000 worth of scholarship money.

Want a piece of that action, Marino says quality of practice is better than quantity.

"Going on those 10-hour binges where you're only drinking Mountain Dew and you haven't moved during that whole span isn't going to help you get better," acknowledged Marino.

Players also need to maintain good grades, be active contributors to their school community – and participate in a physical fitness regimen.

"The reason why that's an important thing to notice it that obviously, you don't want to be sitting down eight hours a day playing games –  like that is not the best thing for your health," acknowledged Josh.

If your kid is really good, contact college teams. Since most high schools still don't have esports programs, it's harder to scout players - for now.

Tammy Street's advice – if your gamer wants to make a go of it, give it a chance. Just be sure you establish guidelines and expectations - like coming to the table.

"Then it's like okay, you know, there's dinner at some point, right," she laughed.

MORE INFORMATION: Gaming Insomniacs


Jerry Gretzinger

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