Stiegler EdTech, Carolina Esports Hub and Tepper Sports & Entertainment, in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is pleased to announce the first varsity-level high school esports and STEM league in the district's history. Tepper Sports & Entertainment includes the NFL's Carolina Panthers and MLS's Charlotte Football Club.
The CMS Varsity esports and STEM League will officially kick off on Wednesday, Nov. 2, with 12 high schools participating in the inaugural season. The competition will involve head-to-head matchups in Rocket League between the varsity and junior varsity teams of the schools. Rocket League is an online game with rules similar to soccer, in which players use different models of virtual cars to steer the ball.
"I've seen the power of esports and the positive similarities it can have with traditional varsity sports in my own family," said Ericia Turner, CMS athletic director. "I knew making the launch of this first-of-its-kind league across CMS a priority would enable us to harness the power of meeting these students where they are, while still relaying the powerful lessons of communications, leadership and teamwork varsity sports can provide."
Over 500 CMS students signed up to play in the inaugural league, and close to 100 were selected to play at the Varsity, Junior Varsity and Club level for their respective schools. Weekly competitions will also be professionally produced and streamed live on Twitch, with professional esports commentators.
"We're excited to be part of this effort to expand esports and STEM opportunities for students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools," said Riley Fields, Carolina Panthers Director of Community Relations. "Education and youth football are key areas of focus in our community efforts, and esports provides many of the same growth and development opportunities for students as traditional sports by playing in a competitive team-building environment and emphasizing leadership, sportsmanship, and communication. In addition, the development of science, technology, engineering and math skills can open up new and different pathways to higher education and employment."
Along with the esports competition, each high school will compete in challenges designed to further the students' skills in high-value STEM categories. The STEM challenges will be broadcast during the esports competition on the same Twitch channel and judged by industry experts on a head-to-head basis just like the Rocket League matches.
"In CMS, at the middle and high school levels, we offer STEM through Career and Technical Education (CTE), a program that prepares students for high-wage, high-demand careers," said Toni Hall, CTE CS and IT Pathway Lead for CMS. "As an educator and a parent, I've seen firsthand how students respond to games and competition. The Varsity eSports & STEM League will allow us to reinforce STEM concepts that are taught in our CTE courses while leveraging student interests in sports and gaming. This program will truly be a game changer."
The first season will feature five regular-season matchups, followed by playoffs and a championship. Week 1 matchups include: Providence v Palisades (5:30 p.m.), Hough v South Meck (6:15 p.m.), East Meck v Charlotte Engineering (7 p.m.), Ardrey Kell v Williams Montessori (7:45 p.m.), Olympic v Garinger (8:30 p.m.), Hopewell v Phillip O. Berry (8:30 p.m.).
"Charlotte FC has been part of the esports community since signing Khaled Ali as our first eMLS player in 2021, and providing increased opportunities for upward mobility is a pillar of our community programming so supporting this initiative is a logical next step for our club," said Dustin Swinehart, Charlotte FC Director of Community Engagement. "We've seen first-hand not only the growing popularity of esports, but also the benefits it has for young players in learning key educational and social skills. STEM learning curriculum works hand-in-hand with esports competition and we're thrilled to help bring increased access to these programs to CMS students."