Competitive video game play now offered for youth and teens.

The Gateway Region YMCA is now offering Esports (Electronic Sports) leagues at the Bayer YMCA and the Carondelet Park Rec Complex. Video game play is designed for youth and teens, ages 9-17 who compete competitively in games such as Super Smash Bros, Rocket League, and NBA 2K21. 

The Gateway Region YMCA is one of a handful of Y’s from across the United States that has started the Esports initiative. League play will give teens an opportunity to connect with a diverse group of gamers as they play against other teens from across the country.

“The Y has been a leader in developing and implementing Youth Sports programs over the years that facilitate the learning of teamwork, health and wellness habits and self-discipline,” said Matt Thompson, district vice president at the Gateway Region YMCA. “Esports really allows for teens who don’t get involved in what were typically the more traditional school and community programs to be engaged through this outlet. Esports involves strategy, collaboration, problem-solving skills, and communication; everyday skills youth need to continue to grow and thrive.”

The amount of technology involved with Esports enables students to practice and develop STEM skills. Students spend hours analyzing data, game statistics, and strategies, which provide real-world experience and application.

“With many universities sponsoring competitive Esports teams as well as providing scholarships to students who are gamers, our investment in Bayer’s STEM Teen and Tech Center is showing kids an unexpected pathway to future careers,” said Al Mitchell, Vice President of Corporate Engagement for Bayer. “Bayer is proud to support this innovative STEM initiative.”

Other opportunities can also come from playing Esports, including:

• 71 percent of parents report gaming having net positive effects for children 
• 54 percent of gamers say gaming helps them connect with friends 
• At least ten St. Louis area high schools compete in the top national high school Esports league 
• In the span of just five years, over 125 higher education institutions have created varsity collegiate Esports programs including three locally - Maryville, Fontbonne, and St. Louis Universities 
• More than 30 U.S. colleges and universities offer scholarships for gamers

Because of the support of Bayer Corporation and their investment in Y programs and the Bayer YMCA building, STEM programs such as Esports are able to launch. Thanks in large part to the generous support of Bayer and an anonymous donor, the Bayer YMCA underwent $2.5 million in renovations in 2019 which included an expanded Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) and Teen Tech Center, a community kitchen, expanded health and wellness services, and a new family changing room. The Y is thankful for Bayer's ongoing support.

The Y hosted a small kick-off event on Friday, March 5 to thank and recognize partners of the project, and provide a tour of the new Esports area at the Bayer YMCA. Partners include Bayer Corporation, the City Museum, HyperX, and NZXT.