Cisco: How COPE is leveraging esports to inspire youth success

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This blog comes to us from Shae Williams, a former software manager at IBM, who co-founded a nonprofit Coalition of Parents in Esports (COPE) in 2020 to help parents and their children get the most out of their gaming experiences. in line. COPE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that empowers youth, parents, educators, and community leaders to use the gaming metaverse to build confidence, curiosity, community, and careers through programs and scholarships . She will be speaking at an upcoming Women Rock-IT event on April 28, 2022.

Before you roll your eyes at the title of this blog, know that I am also a parent concerned about the effects of screen time on the development and education of my children. Like any dedicated soccer mom, I made sure my kids were physically active in a myriad of sports. However, when we arrived at the car or at home, there was a recurring constant: the screens. The media told me to limit that time, but I was an exhausted working mom and this digital babysitter was a welcome respite. I felt the requisite parental guilt, but I also saw them having fun, connecting socially and, dare I say it, learning.

First, learn at home

As a computer professional who studied computer science based on my own love of early video games like Galaga, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyand Loss, technology was part of their childhood. Until the age of 13, all screen time was spent in a central area of ​​the home where their online activity could be safely monitored and advised.

As a family, we have integrated Minecraftlost every Mario Kart race to my daughter and realized that our son was exceptionally gifted mentally and physically for competitive games. He excelled at a game that required the mental dexterity of rapid chess combined with moves my fingers would never master. Soon he was planning practice times with his teammates and friends and working on skills such as aiming practice and strategy. He was learning communication skills in our digitally connected world at age 13 that spanned the globe via Discord, Twitch, and Twitter.

When my son Devin aka “Duster” was 14, his love of video games took an unexpected turn. He developed an interest in technology by optimizing his PC, building discord servers for his friends, and wondering about the technology behind the networks and servers that connected him to others. He was learning business and budgeting skills as he negotiated graphics for his marketing. He was learning public speaking by live-streaming on Twitch and editing videos. As a mother, I became less worried as I watched, listened, and learned from my son. I realized he had made amazing relationships with teenagers all over the world who were mentors and friends. I have also seen my son learn all the same teamwork skills through football and develop his confidence. I even learned that the passion of winning or losing a video game is no different from any sport, and that passion creates great teachable moments for kids and parents. Soon I found myself wholeheartedly supporting his passions, despite the negativity of others, as I realized they didn’t see this world for what it really was.

I had a unique perspective on the value of esports through its success, but I also saw thousands of other kids online have the opportunity to be inspired by the game to build confidence, find their interests professionals and identify with like-minded people. The only thing missing was the enthusiastic section of parents applauding their efforts, consoling their defeats and cheering on the valuable lessons, just like in any sport. The media has spent 30 years telling parents that games make kids antisocial and violent. Reputable studies have debunked all these myths, but the fear remains. Parents are criticized and blamed for allowing our children to play. Relationships between parents and children are strained as they fight over time spent on console or PC. Children feel misunderstood and the digital divide between parents and players is widening.

Covid lockdown inspires COPE

Before the lockdown, COPE co-founder and CEO Chris Spikoski noticed that when he was at esports conventions with his son, ‘Skeptic’, who was there signing autographs, something interesting started to happen. Parents lined up to ask Chris questions, like “What is esports?” “Can you really have a career here? And “How do you make sure he gets enough exercise?” I found out that the same thing happened to me at Dreamhack Anaheim, in February 2020, when relatives were looking for me to ask me the same questions.

During the confinement, many parents of esports professionals have connected on social networks to find a community and understand each other. We shared our experiences of celebrating successes and consoling defeats, just like in any competitive sport. Again, players and their parents reached out to us online and asked the same questions about how to get their parents to support their esports passions like us. In the summer of 2020, we realized that no organization existed to help parents and their players get the most out of their esports experiences. We had more experience than most parents, so we decided to come together to make esports better understood and embraced by parents, so their children could pursue their dreams.

Our nonprofit, Coalition of Parents in Esports (COPE), advocates to break the unhealthy cycle of treating gaming as a vice, instead of acknowledging it as a tool for education and connection. Today, online gaming isn’t just about playing video games in your parents’ basement. Our children are embracing the technology of their generation and learning to make it work for them for fun, sport and connection. Instead of trying to limit what they enjoy, COPE strives to help parents embrace it and work with their children to ensure they get the most out of their experiences. Like any social group or activity, there is always the possibility of negative interactions, but with parental involvement, children will be equipped to deal with these challenges and will be confident to ask you, their parents, for help. help and advice.

We encourage you to listen to your child, participate in their online social world, and watch their games. We strongly encourage you to play games with them. With proper equipment, planned schedules and qualified coaching, players learn resilience, team building, strategy and time management, just like in any sport. More importantly, they connect with like-minded peers and even parents when we support their activities and show our pride in their accomplishments.

Looking at the esports facts we know

  • The ecosystem around online gaming teaches valuable behaviors that go beyond being exceptional in a video game. Children learn marketable business skills, such as networking, marketing and accounting. While very few will reach the upper echelons of professional gaming, many will find other interests in the gaming and metaverse communities that could shape their education and career path. Esports is a booming industry with varied careers in financial, legal, technical, medical, creative and many other exciting opportunities.
  • Eighty percent of children currently involved in esports programs through their schools or communities would not have participated in any other extracurricular activity. The benefits of participation in school sports are well known for the mental and physical development of our young people. Esports reaches children previously excluded from these important developmental experiences.
  • It is a sport with training and tournaments. Print and display timetables. Plan tournaments with enough rest, nutrition and training.
  • Physical fitness is important! Like any sport, physical and mental strength and endurance are essential for success. Any good program will include and encourage daily practice and mental exercise to improve your game. Make sure your child learns that optimal physical and mental health is the key to success and injury protection. All that time spent sitting and doing repetitive motions will take its toll.
  • Passion is good. We expect inner voices when playing video games, but we scream and scream with them on a sports field. Anger management is a learned skill that improves their performance, but don’t get mad at their passion for wanting to do their best. Provide kick pads or squishy balls to release anger AND to protect controllers, headsets, and even screens!
  • Twitter, Discord and Twitch also allow parents. Climb on board. Keeping your children safe and getting the most out of experiences means being present, in the physical world and in virtual worlds. Get involved, but don’t get high. Teenagers learn best when we are the backbone behind them, not the shield in front of them.

So where is the game taking our youth?

COPE parents have seen the games lead children into new educational and career paths. We’ve seen an interest in learning about finance and investing from their in-game purchases. We’ve seen teenagers start their own businesses, sometimes even with their family Mousepad Company, from pro Fortnite player NRG EpikWhale. We’ve seen esports athletes being among the first to jump into web3, a new concept of the internet using blockchain as a foundation, to learn new technologies. More importantly, we have seen it build self-confidence and joy.

Did you know that a century ago, parents had the same fears about books? None of us know where all that interactive screen time is leading, but my experience with these amazing tech-savvy minds says the kids will be fine.

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