AKRON  The University of Akron is offering a great way to keep middle school and high school students engaged and busy this summer by offering an esports summer camp from July 8-26.

The camp’s agenda includes: Starting the day with a healthy breakfast; attending a game review; going to class; participating in a practice session; strategic planning; group lunch; getting some exercise; meeting with coach and the day ends with a team scrimmage. All of which makes for a full day at UA’s Zips Esports hosted by the 2019 Collegiate Rocket League National Champions.

“It’s the only camp of its kind in the Midwest,” Zips Esports club coordinator Nathan Meeker said. “There are a few camps out there that are more like after school events. Our camps offer overnight stays and expanded programming.”

Part of what makes this program so different according to Meeker is, “The camp allows middle and high school students, whether novice or experienced gamers, to get the esports collegiate experience. It’s a great opportunity to work together in live team-based environments. This experience is something that is nearly impossible for them to get from home, as the interaction with a team in person is so much different than it is online. Since activities take place on campus, students who enroll will be able to get the full university experience – attending classes, using various facilities, and seeing what campus life looks like here at The University of Akron.”

Parents can choose to enroll their campers in one of three separate one-week camp options with options of campers staying overnight or attending only during in the day. While at camp, campers participate in popular game titles, such as “Rocket League,” “League of Legends,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone,” and “Fortnite.”

In addition to the gaming, campers also participate in two to three classes per day where they learn about different professions in the realm of esports such as positions in communications, business, marketing and IT. Campers are expected to spend around two hours each day learning practical IT-related skills including building personal computers and some lite networking. The camp will also foster the development of communication and teamwork skills and will include an hour of physical exercise each day.

Student-players on the Akron Esports varsity college team will analyze campers’ gameplay and provide one-on-one assistance and coaching as well as lead team-building exercises for individual and cooperative success. At the end of each week, parents and friends will be invited to watch campers play a live match at UA’s esports arena inside InfoCision Stadium.

UA has three dedicated esports facilities and gaming cafés at the downtown Akron campus. All of the camp activities will be hosted in the those facilities.

The university held the first camp in the spring of 2018. This is the first year it has been offered during the summer. The camps are open to boys and girls with participants coming from all over Northeast Ohio as well as from Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan.

The college level esports program was originally developed at a varsity level only and was based on student interest. As the program started to build, the university received more than 1,600 inquires so it developed three levels including recreational, club and varsity.

“The summer camp is a little different. It is a chance for middle and high school students to learn more about esports with an introduction to esports and just a little bit about the three levels. We developed the camp because of the interest from parents and the community,” Meeker said. “It’s difficult to find in-person competition for esports in the area. One of the big aspects of the program is that it offers participants the opportunity to compete in gaming as a team. They work together and they have to communicate effectively. Working in a team and learning effective communications are both skills that employers look for in employees.”

He added that communication is probably the most valuable skill that gamers can build as it will not only allow them to experience success in their gaming careers, but they also can then translate that skill into the real world and their other careers. Plus, Meeker said just like traditional sports, gamers use muscle groups that need to be stretched, exercised and trained.

The campers will have to engage in physical exercise throughout their time at camp. Meeker said research on esports athletes indicates that they perform better when also engaging in physical fitness.

The teams are made of three, five or six players. They all sit down together and compete with each other or other teams.   

“Experience in competitive video gaming can also boost a student’s resume when applying for jobs," Meeker said. "Playing on a team or as in individual allows the player to gain hands-on knowledge in problem solving, online collaboration, and other soft skills.

Final signup date for the overnight camp was June 10 but there may still be open spots in the day camps. To find out more, call Meeker at 330-972-4616 or visit the website at www.ua.edu/esports.  

UA is the first public university in northern Ohio and one of the first Division I universities in the country to create a varsity esports program, which launched in December 2017. Recently, the Akron Rocket League team captured the Spring 2019 Collegiate Rocket League National Championship after becoming the first team in the history of Collegiate Rocket League to qualify for the national finals twice consecutively.