More than a game: Pal-Mac eSports high school team teaches students life lessons

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The kids also had to build their own computers before they gamed.

PALMYRA, N.Y. (WROC) — Camaraderie. Teamwork. Communication. Friendship. Dealing with losing. Sportsmanship. Delayed gratification. Troubleshooting.

These are not words everyone associates with videos games, but at Palmyra-Macedon High School, they are the building blocks of their Ssports program.

“I’m getting a lot of students that aren’t typical sports/athletic students,” said Jeffery Cheramie, a teacher at Pal-Mac High school, and one of the coaches for the eSports team. “And these are students that are trying to make a connection to the school. And what we’re doing is we’re helping them make that connection. And we’re helping through eligibility with their grades, we’re helping them increase their academics, we’re helping them participate in school and become a part of the larger school community.”

The program started in early 2019. Before they could game, the kids had to build their own computers, in addition to downloading the software, and maintaining the computers.

“It was a learning curve that we had to deal with,” said Cheramie. “There were some things we had to work through, and explain things, but it all worked out for the best.”

Some of the students, like Matt, had some experience building:

“I’ve built one outside of school before, just to know what I was doing, which was nice, because I didn’t break anything,” said 10th grade student Matt Adamson. “They’re kind of expensive. Building a computer isn’t that difficult, it’s like building LEGOs. But if you don’t know how to build LEGOs together, you can still break them. They still hurt if you step on them, if you step on a motherboard it hurts.”

Others?

“I’m not a very ‘tech-y’ person, so I had to have a lot of help, but it was really fun building a computer,” said 12th grader Lily Demar. “One of them that I built is in there and they’re playing on it right now. It’s really cool. The first time it turned on was the best feeling ever.”

There are twelve kids in the program currently. Most are junior or seniors, but a couple are sophomores. They’re playing a game called “League of Legends.” It’s an immensely popular eSport. Winners of the international competition receive a $1 million purse, and tens of millions watch it across the world.

Coach Balaji, can you break the game down for us?

“League of Legends is a competitive 5 v 5 game, with two teams of five,” said Pete Balaji, math teacher at the high school, modified basketball coach, and coach for the esports team. “They’re basically competing on a map, where they try to take over the other team’s base.”

They just played their first competitive game this past Tuesday. Now, every Tuesday, the team competes with other participating high school teams across New York state.

“It’s very controlled,” Balaji said. “We’re there, obviously there, during our games, and the other coaches are there, and we’re communicating back and forth with those other coaches.”

Just like traditional sports, eSports teaches adults and the kids the “intangibles” that come with competition.

“I do enjoy the competition,” Adamson said. “I think it’s good for kids to have a little bit of competition, it adds a new thing to their life, especially for something I’ve enjoyed for so long, It’s nice to do it against people I haven’t met before.”

“A lot of teamwork, a lot of patience, which I didn’t have much of before,” Demar said. “You need to be patient when something’s not working. (And) if we don’t win, it’s a learning experience.”

“I like to game, and I’m competitive. I like sports, and I like games,” Balaji said. “So esports. It makes sense.”

“Sense of team, and communication. These kids probably wouldn’t be hanging out with each other,” Balaji said. “But a lot of them probably didn’t even know each other before starting this. That’s the best thing I’ve seen from them, is the growth together as a team.”

“As a gamer myself, I like to see this,” Balaji said. “This is cool stuff.”

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