Experiences of an Esports Parent

Oct 02, 2023

Written  by Monica Erwin

It may seem strange to some that I am an esports supporter. I am a 51-year-old mother of two and I teach biology in Upper St Clair school district near Pittsburgh, PA. I have worked in education for almost 25 years, but it’s only over the past 2 ½ years that I have been involved in esports. I approached our school administration and said I was interested in starting an esports club, and they directed me to some amazing students who were ready to get the club started the high school. Last year I became a Scholastic Fellow with NASEF. I actually was surprised they picked me since I really don’t game at all but I do see the value in esports. I see the social connections that students are making, I see the soft skills the students are developing through gaming, I see the potential for career pathways and leadership skills through the lens of esports. NASEF has helped me develop that vision and organize my club and my competing teams. They have also been a great source of international fellowship with other educators and esports experts.

You may ask why me? Why do I see the value in esports. The answer is my two sons. It started with Minecraft as they went through many hours of learning how to craft things, their multiples of four, interacting with others—and also feeling the pain when their houses were raided and destroyed. They gradually progressed to other games such as Rust, COD, Overwatch and the pinnacle for my youngest, League of Legends. He spent countless hours studying the game, watching youtubers and twitch streams on the game and getting coached by various people. He is currently Diamond 2 and is excellent at Ashe and Ekko. But that came with a price…..

When you play a lot of games using the mouse, and I mean a lot, you use your hands, specifically your thumbs a lot. This is what caused the problem for my youngest who used to grind for endless hours leveling up in LOL. At first, he complained only a bit about his hands hurting, specifically his thumbs. He self-treated by wearing a brace and did not play any games for three months. He also went to the chiropractor who did adjustments in his elbow. The thought was that he was misaligned in his elbow and that those adjustments would help his discomfort and make the pain go away. Well, neither one of those worked and instead of getting better, the pain got worse.

It took many doctor visits and a fight to get a referral to find someone who actually knew what was causing his pain and, more importantly, how to treat it. We finally did find someone who correctly diagnosed the problem and developed a treatment plan as well as a routine to prevent the injury from reoccurring. Since LOL is a PC game and uses a mouse, my son’s hand had very large muscles in his palm specifically his thumb muscles. These muscles were so overdeveloped that it was putting pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in his hand causing him tingling and pain. After a few months of therapy to help the blood flow and nerves in his hand, my son now has a routine to use to help relieve his symptoms and get back into gaming again. He is very passionate about League of Legends and is really good at it; we’re hopeful that with awareness he will be able to continue playing and improving.

So, what lessons did I learn?
⦁ Listen to your kids. When they tell you there is an issue, listen. I could have said just stop gaming and it will get better but I didn’t. I could see his frustration and disappointment after trying each new thing and there was no relief.
⦁ Fight for your kids especially when it comes to something that most people see as a waste of time. There are a lot of reasons why esports are a positive thing for anyone involved and you need to make sure that the person who is treating the problem understands that the solution may not simply be just stop gaming.
⦁ Find someone who knows what they are talking about and tries to figure out what is causing the problem instead of just treating the symptoms. You will be happy you did this in the end.
⦁ Prevention is key. Perhaps if my son had practiced good gaming habits he could have prevented or lessened his injury. Taking breaks, stretching, a regular exercise program, and healthy eating are all keys to making sure your gaming operates at a peak level.
⦁ NASEF has published some good resources to help students practice healthy habits for their minds and bodies. Prevention is key but if problems do develop, make sure you seek out a professional that understands these types of injuries and how to treat them appropriately.

Whether you’re a parent or an educator reading this, I hope you’ll learn from our experience. If esports is an activity that your kids or students love, be supportive. Help them set healthy boundaries and routines as they work to improve their skills. Encourage them to build experience in other parts of the esports ecosystem, like shoutcasting or tournament organizing. Esports is a great place for kids to develop skills, and NASEF provides a positive environment for them—and for the educators and families too!

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