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Esports: The new frontier in sports

by SLQ Skills,

Posted on the 03/04/2023

An introduction to esports

Reading time: 5-7 minutes

The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year were, as ever, a great opportunity for up-and-coming stars to test themselves against global competition. The games are often the first chance for the next generation of athletes to step up a level and make a name for themselves against world-class opposition.

They also offer a brilliant platform for growing or developing sports to enjoy some time in the spotlight - especially if they aren’t yet included in the Olympic programme.

In 2022, the Birmingham games shone a light on a whole cast of sporting heroes in a very fresh and dynamic category – esports.

But what are esports?

Competitive video games have been around for a long time, but esports takes this to another level. Pitching professionals against each other with huge crowds in-person and online thanks to live streaming, esports – Electronic Sports – is essentially a competitive activity involving video games, with competitors either taking part individually or as part of a team.

Although there were already major tournaments taking place in the 90s, the last ten years have seen esports explode, with world championships being established in a variety of different games.

The most common genres associated with esports are multiplayer online battle arenas, such as Defence of the Ancients (Dota) or League of Legends, or first-person shooters like Halo or Call of Duty. There are also major tournaments in sports games – such as FIFA – or games like Fortnite (which covers multiple different modes), Minecraft or community-based platforms like Roblox.

More than just video games

In the past, playing video games either involved solo play or, at a push, meeting friends at the arcade for multiplayer Street Fighter. However, the growth of high-speed internet has created a perfect environment for esports to flourish. Esports brings people together, allows them to play with or against people from all over the world and to learn new skills that they can carry with them for life.

There are huge tournaments and leagues all around the world which see incredibly talented esports athletes taking part to win major prizes. The 2019 edition of the Fortnite World Cup Finals had a total prize pool of over $30 million dollars with the winner taking home $3 million. For perspective, that’s more than Novak Djokovic collected for winning Wimbledon that year!

Esports players can also earn some of the highest salaries in competitive action, with over 100 competitors earning over $1 million dollars per year and the very top players reaching $7 million (according to Glancing through the top 100 list, Dota 2 is comfortably the most regularly highest paying game for players, showing its popularity around the world.

And it’s not just about participation.

Esports has become a spectating phenomenon. Huge crowds watch tournaments online but also in person – going as far back as 2013, 20,000 fans flocked into the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the League of Legends World Championships. The 2018 edition of the same event saw approximately 60 million viewers online, racking up a total of over 2 billion total hours watched.

Yes – two billion. The potential interest in esports is massive.

Esport and sport: different, but the same

Esport players usually have very similar stories to players of traditional sports. The very best players often start by playing for fun at grassroots level, taking part in amateur tournaments, building up their skills and developing their experience. If they enjoy regular success and reach the higher rankings within a particular game, they could go on to be signed up by a team and recruited to play in tournaments for prize money.

As they rise up the rankings, players need to practice and be patient; they need to play regularly and consistently to master their chosen games and learn the most effective strategies of skills. It is not uncommon for the very best players to put in 10+ hours of practice in a single day (according to the British Esports Association)

Sound familiar?

Just like in traditional sports, being part of a team brings with it a set of new challenges. Because of this, esports teams function in a very similar way to traditional sports like football or cricket, with a team manager or coach working with the players to develop winning strategies and help them to develop. As they play as part of a team, players need to develop their communication and co-operation skills to be effective in competition and to deliver on their planned strategies. This comes through time spent working on different tactics and receiving feedback on their performance.

That said, there are still differences between sport and esport. Traditional sports are mainstream and have been around for years, drawing in audiences from across all corners of society, whereas esports are still niche.

But this is changing.

Because of the popularity of esports via streaming, players are often influencers, building up large followings based on their character and their content. This adds another layer to the responsibilities of those at the top of their game but also means new audiences are being drawn to esports all the time.

Esports and leadership skills

Although esports switches from the physical world to an online one, players are still guided by coaches to develop their skills and increase their self-belief and ability to the point where they can be confident going into matches and battles – just like a traditional coach. And just like in sport, this work requires their leaders to deliver their guidance with confidence, using excellent communication. They need to work together and find creative solutions to the challenges they face, making sure that everyone in the team is aware of the plan and ready to deliver.

And this is where leadership skills come in.

We know that leadership takes many forms and people have different interests. And because of this, we know that young people could build their leadership skills through esports in the same way millions have already done via Sport and Dance Leadership. That is why we’re working closely with the College of Esports to develop an esports leadership qualification.

Essential leadership skills play a huge role in helping young people feel resilient when faced with a variety of challenges and feel prepared for the next step in their learning journey. They provide learners with greater confidence in their ability to manage their time effectively and to overcome obstacles with tenacity and a growth mindset.

In turn, by demonstrating these positive behaviours, learners become leaders within their communities, encouraging their peers and their wider networks to show the same characteristics. This creates a positive ripple effect that has the potential to benefit the whole of society and greater increased social cohesion through support and encouragement.

The perception of esports and, by definition, video games hasn’t always been positive, with gaming seen as a solo and isolated activity. Advances in technology mean that view is outdated and instead, esports is only likely to grow in the future – recognition from the Commonwealth Games and, on the horizon, from the International Olympic Committee, suggest that esport is here to stay and can have an important role to play.

How can you get involved?

If you’re interested in potentially delivering Esports Leadership to your learners  or if you’re interested in finding out more about this subject, fill in your details using our expression of interest form and we’ll bring you up to speed.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about Esports Leadership, send us an email at and we’ll do our best to help.

Categories for this post: Esports

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