ORJ, Great Valley students win state eSports championships

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Students gather for an esports tournament viewing in lecture hall, with participants seated at computer stations.

The world of competitive video gaming, known as esports, has been growing rapidly over the last decade. What began as small tournaments has evolved into a multibillion-dollar global industry, attracting millions of viewers. Now, esports is making its mark in schools across Pennsylvania, especially in Chester County, building valuable skills in students.

The Pennsylvania Scholastic Esports League (PSEL), led by the Chester County Intermediate Unit, is the statewide esports league supporting competition, community, and career readiness for students across the commonwealth. On May 28, PSEL crowned its 2024 spring State Champions at Harrisburg University. The event celebrated the tremendous growth of scholastic esports programs that are fostering community and developing teamwork, communication, and perseverance in players.

Chester County schools like Downingtown Area School District (DASD) have been pivotal in this growth. As Christopher Groff, a DASD teacher, explained: “I think gaming has a reputation for not always being a welcoming culture online, where players who are anonymous might not always be polite to each other. Esports in school is teaching the students that it is a hobby or activity where one can still be positive, be healthy, and have good communication, collaboration, and respect for other people. All those soft skills that employers are looking for, such as problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and teamwork are really on display during esports club.”
Students have experienced these benefits firsthand. “I have learned how to better my communication,” said Carter Novelenski, a DASD student. “When we were playing, we had to really communicate with each other so that we could coordinate and tell each other what to do so we could win. That has really helped me to have better communication skills.”
The finals day began with a career panel highlighting professional esports opportunities. The championship matches then commenced with the top Pennsylvania middle and high school teams battling for state titles, including Owen J. Roberts High School competing in the High School Rocket League division and Great Valley High School competing in the High School Chess division.
After intense competition, the following schools were crowned PSEL State Champions:
Middle School Rocket League: Southern Lehigh Middle School. High School Rocket League: Owen J. Roberts High School. High School Valorant: Lower Moreland High School. High School Chess: Great Valley High School. Middle School Chess: Pine Grove Area Middle School. Unified Rocket League: Pine Grove Area High School.
Though most scholastic esports programs are less than 3-5 years old, students from public, private, charter, and cyber schools across Pennsylvania are already experiencing significant benefits. Players develop teamwork by collaborating to overcome obstacles together and build perseverance through the endurance required to learn from tough losses.
“Joining the esports team has given me more opportunities to interact with people, make new friends, and just all around enjoy my high school experience a lot more,” stated Kaiye Obiri, student at Governor Mifflin School District.
“The diversity of schools represented shows the boundless potential of scholastic esports,” said Kammas Kersch, director of PSEL and CCIU STEM coordinator. “PSEL has experienced meteoric growth since our founding in 2020, and we can’t wait to see these programs continue to shape students for future success in both collegiate esports and professional career paths.”
For more information on the Pennsylvania Scholastic Esports League, visit www.pselesports.org.

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