Smashing Stereotypes


On December 10th, the District held its winter esports tournament at Jurupa Valley High School. Eight teams representing all four high schools and two middle schools participated, and were composed of five gamers with up to three alternates. 

esports playersPlayers battled it out over Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a popular game on the Nintendo Switch. JUSD’s Education-Information Technology Department oversaw the event, with help from school coaches. 

Jurupa Unified’s esports program started three years ago. “We saw that there was a growing desire for esports at the college level,” explained Daniel Richards, Coordinator of Education Technology. Mr. Richards referenced the scholarships and pathways available, stating that esports can be a gateway for students who have not previously considered careers in computer science, screenwriting, and other technical fields behind gaming. Esports is also finding a place among traditional school sports and is officially recognized by CIF (California Interscholastic Federation​).

“We see the football players, we see the baseball players, and we recognize them as representing their school,” said Mr. Richards. “But now there’s a pathway where these students who are maybe not as athletic are able to still represent their school.”

esports playerStudents who participate in esports develop teamwork, communication, and critical thinking skills. Players need fast reflexes to respond to different moves and form complex strategies to defeat their opponents. “You have to practice,” said Desiree Warren, JVHS esports coach. “You have to spend the same amount of time playing esports as you would on the soccer field.”

Coach Warren, also a teacher, oversees her school’s esports club. Though the District has secured funding for equipment, the esports program is run on volunteers. Coaches are typically teachers or library staff who donate their time. “I have a great love for esports and video games,” shared Coach Warren. “I know that it is a growing industry, so I wanted to bring it into our campus [for] students who don’t have a sport or something they feel that they belong to.”

In addition to district tournaments, the JVHS esports club participates in various outside competitions. The club has over twenty members, but not all gamers compete every time. Teams are determined by the games students play best, with some favoring the Nintendo Switch while others excel at PC gaming. 

Though developing skills is a priority, Coach Warren also stresses the importance of positivity and a toxic-free environment. “We’re trying to rewrite some of those stereotypes,” she said, referencing beliefs that gamers are lazy or hostile toward marginalized individuals. 

Leo, Remi, and Natalie“I was scared to go in there because I’m a girl,” said Remi, club member. But once Remi found the courage to participate, they realized the esports club is a comfortable space to meet new friends who share similar interests. “It’s a good place for you to be yourself,” added Natalie, fellow club member. 

The winners of the winter tournament were teams from Mission Middle and Rubidoux High School. According to Mr. Richards, this was one of two yearly tournaments that will help develop a district team to play at the county level. 

“The data shows that esports is now the second most-watched sport in the country,” said Mr. Richards. “The idea that gamers are these kids sitting in their mom’s basement is long gone. These are some of the highest-paid athletes in the world. This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and we want our students to be involved.”


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