BBHES esports team up and running

by Dan Holland

Following a trend to institute one of the newest and fastest-growing extra-curricular school activities nationally, Brecksville-Broadview Heights Elementary School established its first esports club last fall.

The club, led by STEAM teacher Caleb Bihari, consists of 30 fourth and fifth grade students. Nearly 70 students attended tryouts for the new program last November. Teams consisting of three-to-four players each, compete against each other weekly in Mario Kart Deluxe 8.

Eight Nintendo Switches and pro controllers were made available for the program through the BBHES Parent School Organization.

The idea began when Bihari responded to a staff newsletter from Principal Colleen Toth last spring inquiring whether there was any interest in beginning an esports program in the school.

Bihari attended a middle school summer esports camp held at Cleveland State University last June to attain information on how to begin a program at BBHES. He is currently investigating options for the club to expand in numbers and also to compete against other esports clubs.

“There are not many opportunities available for elementary esports athletes to compete against other schools as official leagues cater to middle school and beyond,” Bihari explained. “The main reason for this is that games require online play where the safety protocols and terms of service usually require students to be 13 and older. They also require chat apps that may not be appropriate for younger students to safely navigate.”

The club meets twice each week for practices and competitions. Club members also practice at home, often sending Bihari screenshots when they achieve a personal best.

“The kids on the team love it; they are very interested and engaged, and they come to each practice ready to grow as gamers and compete,” said Bihari. “The school seems to be really interested as well. Very often I will have students from all grade levels during their STEAM class asking how to be on the team or ask why I have Switches in the classroom. The outside of my glass wall is where I post the team standings.”

Much more than just fun and games, the activity helps students develop a number of life skills, said Bihari. “It promotes teamwork and cooperation among students, fostering essential social skills in a digital environment,” he explained. “They offer a platform for students to develop strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities while engaging in a fun and inclusive activity. Additionally, esports can provide opportunities for students to explore potential career paths in technology and gaming industries.”

“Students learn soft skills such as sportsmanship, resiliency, the importance of practice in a competitive event, and how to handle winning and losing with grace,” he added. “They also learn technical skills pertinent to Mario Kart such as timing, drifting, item deployment strategy, and course strategy.”

The activity also provides an opportunity for students who are not involved in traditional athletics to participate in a team sport, Bihari added.

Current goals for the 2024-25 school year include expanding the club to 50 players and adding an additional game – either Super Smash Bros. or Rocket League. Expanding the program’s website and livestreaming or posting past events are some additional goals, said Bihari.

Above all, Bihari said he enjoys watching students learn and grow. “I enjoy seeing kids work to improve on something and then seeing their growth,” he said. “It’s what I love most about being a teacher, traditional sports coach, and now esports coach. Students began in December after tryouts, and everyone has greatly improved their Mario Kart skills and times since then.”

The club held its first-ever in-house 4 vs. 4 championship tournament on May 1.

“It is fun to see student personalities come out more than I get a chance to see as their STEAM teacher,” Bihari added. “I think it strengthened our student-teacher relationship as we all started something brand new to BBHES this year together.” ∞

Andrew O. was the team’s solo champ this season.

Team Mario, comprised of Kendall S., Carter W., Landen J., and Wonjun L. was the team’s 4v4 champion. Photos submitted.

Members of the BBHES esports club meet after school to practice for area competitions against other esports clubs in Northeast Ohio. Photo submitted.

On our cover (photo): More than 30 fourth- and fifth-grade students participate in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Elementary School esports league, as part of which teams of three to four students compete weekly playing Mario Kart Deluxe 8. Photo submitted by Caleb Bihari.