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What esports competition means for grades 6-12 students

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

May 12, 2021

By Rich Conti, Mastery Coding, and Katie Sandberg, California League of Schools

The California League of Schools and Mastery Coding have partnered to provide an academic esports league that gives middle and high schools everything needed to enter the world of competitive esports. From SEL to workforce apprenticeship opportunities, the California League of Esports offers curriculum, PD, support, and a competitive framework for participating schools in some of today’s most exciting games. In this Q&A, we delve into the element of competition.

Hey Rich! You are a successful, professional gamer. Can you share a bit about your formal and informal education and gaming accomplishments?

Hey Katie! “Successful professional who games” might be more fitting as I never fully “went pro” in the world of esports. I might’ve had the opportunity when Overwatch released and I decided to start, captain, and eventually coach, an esports team, which has been quite successful in the collegiate leagues. Back then I was a GM DPS player who mained Pharah, Reaper, and Mei. I did have a couple of offers to try out for teams but instead decided to finish earning my degree in game development from Champlain College in Burlington, VT

Rich Conti and his collegiate Overwatch team

What is your current role at Mastery Coding, and why did you choose this path in the esports universe?

I am currently Academic Esports Director and Senior Curriculum Developer here at Mastery Coding. When I first started, I was writing and recording video curriculum which teaches students to code, create their own video games, and earn certifications. I went to school for game development because of an early passion for gaming. I always felt gaming to be a strong motivator for learning to code and develop software so I brought the idea of Pathway Esports to Mastery Coding as a way to help schools build their own teams and link student passion for esports directly to education and future careers!

I’m a Gen Xer and terrible at Rocket League, decent at Minecraft Dungeons, but generally not savvy about video gaming. Esports represents a whole new world for educators like me who maybe have kids at home who game, but really have a limited understanding of the power and potential of it all. What can you tell me about the culture of gaming for secondary students that would be important for teachers and administrators interested in esports to know?

Like other team-based sports, esports can be extremely valuable in the development of positive social-emotional skills and mental well-being—and all from the comfort of your own computer! In all seriousness, many students who participate in esports do not otherwise participate in extracurricular activities and miss out on the numerous benefits. Students will be gaming regardless, but adding an organized framework to their gaming ensures they do so in a positive and healthy manner.

Esports can be extremely valuable in the development of positive social-emotional skills and mental well-being—and all from the comfort of your own computer!

How about competition: Why is it important? What does competition mean for team dynamics and individual growth?

Competition has been a staple of humankind for a while - and for good reason. It is exciting and fun (if sometimes stressful) to battle others in something you are good at. Players have a chance to push their limits and learn how to win and lose gracefully.

What happens to student esports teams during their journey from just starting out to finding their rhythm? What happens as teams advance from early scrimmages to tournament battles?

Regularly playing together and growing as a team is one of the most meaningful elements of esports. Players might start as complete strangers, but in order to succeed they must learn to communicate, trust one another, and build a strong connection. Regularly meeting, playing together, and reflecting on team gameplay builds both community and game skill.

Our first tournament, the California League of Esports Rocket League Tournament, takes place May 22-23, 2021. What will those days look like, and why and how should educators interested in bringing esports to their schools tune in?

Well, we have over 25 teams signed up for a Rocket League 3v3 double elimination bracket! This will be a great opportunity for some new teams in the California League of Esports to showcase their talent and participate in the excitement. Participating teams will be playing on our CLE Discord and we’ll have experienced casters commentating showcase matches over on

[Watch the matches Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23, starting at 11 am:]

What does esports mean to you, and what does it mean for the future of our students? Why does it matter for middle and high schools in 2021?

For me, gaming and esports was a pathway to finding a community and career I am truly passionate about, and I hope the same for all students in our esports programs. Schools should certainly help students participate in organized esports, learn about new career fields, and set healthy gaming habits which can teach them valuable life skills for years to come.

Anything else you want to share?

I’d like to give a big shoutout to all our current coaches, teams, and schools—thank you so much for participating and taking the first step to creating something historic for students and gamers across California! I can’t wait to witness the future tournaments, and I look forward to crowning the CLE champions. Happy gaming!

Thank you, Rich!


Get on the list to learn right away when registration opens for the 2021 California League of Esports summer camp that meets all the requirements of AB 86/the Extended Learning Opportunities Grant, enabling full funding of your school’s camp.

Or sign up for a Pathway Esports demo account now so your student teams can be ready to start at the beginning of the new school year. After all, winning the Winter 2021 Tournament begins now!



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