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Upper School gaming / esports class
PD esports team in action

Kalon Davis has a mission - to develop and establish Providence Day’s electronic sports (esports) program into one of the most competitive in the country.

One of the fastest-growing curriculums in the nation, Davis says, “esports contributes to a student’s learning and growth by exposing them to coding, graphic design, critical thinking, multimedia production, communication, and teamwork. Any of these skills look excellent on a college application or resume.”

But many people still think of video gaming as a lone person in their room playing all hours without any social interaction. But that is not esports. Esports is all about working together.

Esports sets a precedent “to overcome the perception of isolation and toxicity that has surrounded video games,” says Davis. Esports is definitely not a one-person experience. An esports team consists, at minimum, of two to six players with assigned roles, a social media person or team, and a broadcast team.

Esports teacher Kalon Davis with students during lunchtime gaming session

He continues, “Students that play esports achieve higher academically and, in general, are more passionate have more proficient skills in communication and teamwork. They learn about building bonds and friendships and having social interactions.”

Esports is a team effort all the way around. Davis even witnessed “the students taking on the initiative to organize and run tournaments within PD, which is not an easy task when considering any student’s academic load.”

Club Day was a huge success and went much better than Davis expected. “It started sort of slow, but towards the end of the allotted time, we almost had to stop signing up students due to time running out.”

“But you’ll always see me out on campus or in the Global Cafe at lunch recruiting students.” Open only to upper school students for now, Davis has “high hopes for bringing in middle schoolers next year.”

Students often use lunchtime to play and work on their own games. There is usually around fifteen students playing and coding in The Pitch (classroom). “You’ll get both casual kids and professional kids, and their views are vastly different. Competitive kids come after school around 3:15 - 5:30 p.m.. When I come in, some students are ready to beat ‘the adult in the room.’ Anyone bragging about who’s the best at a certain game automatically intrigues other students, bringing them in to watch the competition.”

“Currently, The Pitch is equipped with MSI Nvidia 3080 graphics cards. And the laptops are ASUS Nvidia 4080s. These are leased and replaced every three years with the newest, state-of-the-art gaming computers,” says Davis.

The esports season begins Monday, September 18, with three seasons total: fall, spring, and summer. Each season runs six to eight weeks. Teams play two official matches per week, plus meetings and practices, along with two in-person tournaments. The three standard games played in most tournaments are Valorant, Super Smash Brothers, and Rocket League.

How did Davis get his love of esports? Two ways. The first he says is “playing Madden Football with my dad growing up.” The second, being the youngest of three, his two older siblings were always playing. “Back then, there were only two controllers. As the youngest, I was the odd man out and was forced to watch and learn. If a controller broke, I was given it to play with and basically ‘figure things out.’”

Another contributing factor was Davis played football in high school and college. When school and football were over, he needed something to do to fill that void. A friend in college introduced him to League of Legends. “I’ve played that game almost every day since. I love esports so much that I’ve even paid for coaching because I want to get better.” That drive led him here to Providence Day.

Here are some interesting facts about the positive impact esports is having in schools:

  • Fosters an interest in STEM programs
    • Systematic thinking and problem-solving. Colleges and universities understand those ties and are looking at esports as a way to encourage students to consider STEM in their studies;
  • Improved mental health
    • The social dynamic and camaraderie of esports teams can reduce depression, and the games can reduce stress, improve memory, and support critical thinking;
  • Increased student engagement
    • Esports is attractive to students who may not participate in traditional sports or other school activities. At PD, esports can help in reaching the fourteen percent that don’t play sports or participate in clubs;
  • Full-ride college scholarships
    • Some schools are starting to offer full-tuition and even full-ride scholarships;
  • New careers
    • The future will rely on technology. Healthcare is now using virtual gaming experiences to help rehabilitate certain conditions;
  • Increased academic and social engagement
    • It can offer students the social tools and motivation needed to channel skills into academic performance.

Davis would like to see esports move over to athletics. “People don’t understand the life of an eSporter the same as a traditional athlete. You still need recovery time to take care of yourself, get out, and take a walk around the track. You can’t play football 24/7, and you can’t esport 24/7.

To wind down from playing esports, Davis plays soccer twice a week and enjoys spending time with his dog, Rikku - a spaniel mix rescued when she was three months old. And yes, the dog’s name is based on a Final Fantasy character, a Japanese role-playing game (RPG).