Note, if you are a teacher or school staff member looking to start an esports team for your school, reach out to me at email@example.com. This article is targeted towards students, but I’d be happy to jump on a quick call with you and run you through the basics.
As someone who created my high school’s first-ever esports club and became the first president for my college’s first esports club since 2 years, I have a wealth of knowledge on forming an esports club which I’d like to pass on to other students.
This is meant to be a practical guide, something written by an experienced student to another student, not these arbitrary guides written by teachers who don’t actually understand the process we need to go through to make the club happen.
How do you start an esports club at school? To start a high school esports club, you have to do the following:
- Understand the Personal Costs of Running a Club
- Find a School Staff Member to Support the Club
- Build your team
- Prepare to Explain to the School Administration Why They Need Esports
- Talk to the School Administration
- Prepare Your Club to Launch
- Start Promoting Your Club
- Execute Your Plan
The fact that you are reading this means that not only are you smart to look for help from others but you are driven to make this club a reality. You are an action taker, keep this up and you will make it far in life.
Anyway, let’s get you fully prepared to create this esports club. Some of the content below may not fully apply to you if you already achieved these steps.
Such as step 1, if you already have a staff member you may not need to fully read that section, but don’t skip it outright.
Skim it, as we will have information that still applies. Even though you have a staff member doesn’t mean you have the right staff member. Trust me, I made that mistake when our first teacher left (I talk about that in more detail in that section).
Also, below the step-by-step guide, I include more information that will aid you in your journey. That includes a list of benefits, esports leagues to be a part of, resources and much more.
I think the most valuable item I can provide though, is my own experience and time. If you are overwhelmed, lost or confused, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to do all I can to help guide you! That’s just what I enjoy to do 😀
Now without further ado, let’s start making this idea a reality!
How to Start an Esports Club
Get excited, you are doing what most students don’t do, start a club from scratch. This will be a lot of fun and work, but mostly fun. As a student, you are put at a major disadvantage in that bureaucracy, that’s something I had to learn the hard way.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many photos in my high school days (I learned from that and took a ton more in college), but here is a photo from our year 2 tournament we hosted in college.
Before we even dive into it, it’s important for you to acknowledge that it’s possible. This isn’t anything crazy that you are attempting, trust me. I sure felt like what I was doing was an impossible feat, but actually many high schools across US and Canada have already embraced an esports/gaming club.
1. Understand the Personal Costs of Running a Club
Before committing to anything, you need to first determine if you are serious about doing this. This will mean spending time working on the club, putting yourself out there and trying to create something meaningful.
It’s not a massive commitment, trust me, but there is work to be done, and the work you put in upfront will be proportional to the success you get with your club.
One of the biggest mistakes, I made when I started my own club was that I just liked video games but I didn’t spend the time to build out a successful club plan and put in a bit of the leg work.
I’ll say it again, it’s not a massive undertaking, but the 80/20 rule really applies here, 80% of the value from the club will come from 20% of the work. Now you need to do at least that 20% of work to hopefully hit that 80% value and not bomb it like me initially.
What you will Need to Commit
- At least 1 recess per week when running the club, but also several recesses for the first few weeks as you prepare to acquire what you need to start the club (We will discuss this further in step 2, step 4, step 5, step 7, and step 8)
- Spending some time brainstorming what the club will need and do (I talk more about this in step 4 and step 6)
- Putting yourself out there by talking with and engaging with the new club members (I break this down further in step 7 and step 8)
- Putting yourself out there by talking to random gamers you see in the halls and around the school to promote your club and learning from them what they will want to see (Step 6 and step 7 speak more to this)
- Probably a bit of cash for small tournaments, this isn’t needed and ideally you can pull this from the school (I actually didn’t, so I also had $0 to work with, which hurt the club a lot. We will talk about how to get cash from the school in step 5, and we will talk about why without the cash hurt my club significantly in step 6)
- Willingness to work with a teacher or another higher-level staff member (their position in the school must be equivalent or above a teacher, further discussed in step 2)
- Understanding that a lot of things won’t go your way and your teacher will need to deal with a lot of extra stuff that you won’t (will break this down more in step 2 and step 5)
If some of this worries you and makes you feel unsure about moving forward, good! That means you will be pushing yourself and challenging yourself. School is all about learning and growing, what better way to do so in the same environment as a high school.
When I started my club, I had to do a lot of things I didn’t want to do. But now looking back, I couldn’t be happier I did them, I only wish I did, even more, to further learn and grow from the opportunities around me.
Like I said earlier, if you are working while other fellow students are playing during recess, I ensure you if you keep that up, you are setting yourself up to achieve a lot in life.
The best part about the club, however, is that it’s a fun club on a topic you probably love, esports and gaming! Don’t let a bit of work hold you back from doing great things!
Know Your Why
This may be a bit much, especially for a high school club, but it’s always good to know why you are doing what you are doing. This reason will push you to want to continually grow yourself and your club in the process, even when things may not be as fun.
Perhaps your reason is that you want to share your love of gaming, or that you want to create opportunities for your friends at school, or you just want to make friends. Whatever your reason may be, keep it in the back of your mind and continue to remember it as you focus on building out your esports high school club.
2. Find a School Staff Member to Support the Club
With a calm, collected and prepared mind, we may now initiate the first steps of setting up your esports club.
This club idea, alone, is not possible to be completed, I’ll be completely honest. In a high school, the student truly has no power to do anything, regardless of what anyone tells you. You need an ally, a friend in arms, someone that will have your back and advocate on your behalf.
You need a teacher! It could also be someone in a more administrative role, but teachers are likely your best bet when starting up a club.
For the next part, I will talk a bit about my own experiences, feel free to skip that section and jump right into how you can find a teacher today.
My Experience Acquiring a Teacher
When my club first started, I was very lucky to find Mr. Yee, my teacher for English (looking back, he was an amazing individual. Extremely supportive guy and easily the best of the 3 teachers that helped me over this journey, be sure to send him some love to his teacher Twitter).
I found out he played League of Legends when a friend and I made a joke and called Mr. Yee “Master Yi” (referring to the LoL champion), to which he responded by confirming that he played. Later that year, we even played a game together.
Long story short, Mr. Yee was a gamer himself and he understood the dynamics of starting the club. But he also understood the school system much more than I did, and he went through the undertaking of working with the administration on the club’s behalf.
That was one mistake, simply because not only did I missed out on that experience that would have been valuable to learn, but once Mr. Yee left the school in the following year, I lost that safety net and I had no connections with the school’s administration.
Looking back, however, he helped mentor me on decisions and never missed a meeting date. I was very fortunate for my first year running to stumble across a teacher who was so willing, understanding and helpful.
Above is the Teacher Twitter page of the man, the myth, the legend Mr. Yee himself!
Fast-forward a year, Mr. Yee was actually a temporary teacher and he left the school that year. Now, the club had no teacher or administration support to build out. In my desperation, I found the first teacher I thought had the time to help. What a mistake.
I ended up asking my mathematics teacher for that year, but the thing is that I did not only dislike his class (and doing terrible in it), but he was honestly very intimidating and scary to talk to (sounds weird and funny but believe me). Like, he was a good teacher, just someone I feared talking to. Which most certainly hurt our communication.
As he became growingly busier in the following months due to loads of tests he was marking, I realized I needed a new teacher to help as, without a physical teacher within the classroom, we can’t get a classroom. So, I asked my new English teacher, and she was extremely nice and open to help in every way (whose name unfortunately behooves me).
Issues came because of the fact that now I got a new teacher to run the club but I didn’t tell the old teacher (as I roll my eyes to my old self). In the end, the issue never really got resolved, which again essentially cut all my ties with the administration as the first teacher was the one to reapproach them about the club.
Many more mistakes were made in this process, but that’s a quick summary of it.
How to Find a Teacher For Your Club
For you to find a teacher, first you want to understand the landscape of your school. What teachers are currently involved in what clubs/activities.
Ideally, you want to stick to a teacher you have for that semester. Someone you see often and know well enough to engage with them on this project.
Really do some thinking about which teacher would be your best asset. You don’t need “the absolute best teacher possible”, but I can tell you finding the wrong teacher can be the downfall of your club and the endeavours your team undertakes.
If none of your current teachers is a good choice, that’s fine, but you will need to engage with a new prospect somehow. This could be by getting a recommendation and introduced by your friend that already is connected with the teacher (likely being in their classes) or by putting yourself out there and doing your own research to hunt down and ask to find some time to talk with a random teacher you know (based on your research) is a great fit for your club.
So how do you determine if a teacher is a good fit? Lucky for you, below I broke down exactly what you want to look for, what you want to avoid and additional desirable traits. After all that, I will then break down the proper way you want to go about pitching the idea to the teacher.
Qualities to Look For in a Teacher and Your Relationship with Them
- They should be full-time or at least temporary (for the year) staff
- They at least understand gaming, an additional massive plus if they also play games
- A teacher that not only you trust, but you already have a positive open relationship to (ideally a teacher you already have classes with to better your communication)
- Responsible, experienced and interested in being actively involved (and I mean involved in discussions, not the work. You, the student, should have control over your vision for the club, while they provide mentoring and provide support on the administrative front)
- Someone that supports and pushes you, not someone who you feel may hold you back or restrict you (really think about the person you are going to ask and understand your current relationship and thoughts about them to determine this)
Avoid a Teacher if Any of the Following Applies
- They are already very involved in the school, likely supporting another/multiple club/s
- You fear speaking to the teacher if things go wrong as you are either afraid, intimidated or seek not to disappoint them
- They are only interested in helping your club because they want to be running a club in the school, rather than wanting to being involved in the story of esports/gaming development in your school (as you failed to sell them on the amazing opportunities)
Be Aware/Expect the Following
- The teacher will not work for you, they will help you and mentor you, but you need to do most of the leg work (the way it should be)
- Your teacher has a full-time job being a teacher, respect their time and their efforts. Don’t be overly clingy or bug them, especially during the period when they are doing report cards. If they request some time away from the club, respect that but also take action to acquire a new teacher (if you don’t have a backup)
- Your teacher, if interested, will want to deal with all the administrative work. Ask and see how you can get involved in these discussions. This will open a lot more doors for you to expand and growing the club than you initially think
Nice to Have:
- Find a backup teacher to run your club in case something was to happen to your first teacher. Make sure you communicate to both teachers that the latter is a backup/support/mentor, and communicate if you need to opt into the backup teacher at all as the first teacher is the champion of your club and has taken responsibility for it. This act is easier said than done (been there, done that poorly 😔), and the conversation may be hard, but it’s the logical approach and it will put you in a really good position.
- Find a teacher that has their own dedicated/main classroom. That will help you secure the same classroom for your club and ensure that your teacher isn’t late or overly burdened to come to the club meetings. If they don’t, seek to gain the classroom that they last taught in before recess (for the reasons previously stated).
- Find a teacher with who you have a class right before the club’s meeting, which will help better your live communication and preparation.
- Get your teacher’s phone number. This is a hard ask (and it may even be prohibited by the school or discouraged due to inappropriate child-teacher relationships), but it’s worth asking. If you can acquire this, live communication, especially around club time or when needed last second, this will help significantly. If acquired, DON’T ABUSE! Use ONLY FOR EMERGENCIES or you will LOSE that privilege. DON’T DISTRIBUTE, they are trusting you and this will destroy your relationship with them. Think twice before sending a message.
How to Recruit Your Desired Teacher
I couldn’t think of a better word than recruit, because that’s essentially what you are doing. A major mistake I made was that I took it very casually, I didn’t really sell the teacher on the idea nor did they fully understand what we were doing or what esports was (at least with my teachers in our 2nd year).
Don’t get me wrong, your pitch can be a simple ask of “can you help me start a gaming club”, but unless this is something they wanted to do already or are a gamer already, they likely won’t be excited and won’t see the full possibilities with this idea.
The thing about esports and gaming is that it’s blowing up, and hundreds of high schools across US and Canada (and likely many other first and second world countries). In addition, scholarships and competitions are coming out for these schools (more information on this in the benefits section).
The image above is all the high schools that have a high school gaming club partnered with the High School Esports League. Notice that these are only the ones partnered with HSEL, so you can only imagine how many more exist that aren’t partnered with this business.
This investment, if done right, cares to outright change the culture and acceptance of gaming in the school. This could transform into an esports arena in the high school, or an entire event dedicated to celebrating gaming. Sound exciting? It sure is, I only wish I played my cards better and really built out what I aspired to do.
But like you may be getting excited, you want to share that excitement with the teacher. You need to sell them on this. This may have to be a PowerPoint presentation. I personally wouldn’t go that far, but it could be. What would be better is more so what we call an elevator pitch, a quick oral rundown of what you plan to do and why it matters.
You don’t want to come off as overly imaginary and not grounded in realism, so that’s why you will want to pull real-life examples of other high schools, ideally in your local area. If you start talking about an esports arena, they may think you are crazy. But if you mention that another high school within your state or country added an esports arena because of gaming, and a local university is providing gaming scholarships, now that will get them excited as they see the realism in the idea.
So as far as what the reasons for creating an esports club, I broke down a slew of benefits in the main section below (after all the steps), which will be an asset to you.
This will also be an educational period. You will need to explain what esports and gaming is and that it has grown into a billion-dollar industry and universities and high schools are widely embracing it.
The educating part is crucial to your success. This should be an ongoing conversation, even after you onboarded the teacher.
Additional Things to Be Aware of
Make sure to keep strong consistent communication with them. If you are facing personal issues, they should be aware. If you feel overburdened, they should know. If you have some issues with how the teacher is conducting themselves with you, be vocal about it and let them know (but be aware that it may hurt their ego and your relationship may suffer. You need some tact about how you approach these, meaning being smart about how you word it).
Also, GET THEIR EMAIL! I wish I did this when I was in high school, I’d always be running around trying to find the teacher so I can talk to them. GET THEIR EMAIL and save yourself the headache, please.
But once you do exchange emails, be aware that they will also send you emails and you are expected to check it and respond.
I wish you the best of luck in your teacher recruiting efforts.
3. Build Your Team
For this part, I’m not going to go so in-depth as although this is important, building out a good team in high school is not only difficult but also usually just limited to your friends that just like similar things you do; gaming.
A few of the people in this photo were from my team. Most weren’t. This is actually a photo from the student-run organization Soliac Association that ended up growing as a result of the club’s later success. Long story, not for this article but maybe I’ll write an article on the subject in the future 🙂
What I will touch on is how you, as the leading member of the team, should conduct yourself.
If you cannot find friends who want to help you, don’t worry, people who end up joining your club may end up wanting to help out, just be vocal and open that you are looking for help. Once you do, trust me, there will be one or two people who will really want to.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of desirable skills:
- Someone with graphic design ability
- Someone who enjoys photography (to act as a photographer during clubs)
- Someone, if not yourself, who will keep good communication with your allied teacher
- Someone, if not yourself, to lead meetings
- Someone, if not yourself, who has a strong familiarity with your games that are being hosted/created teams for
Being a Leader
How does one lead? This has been a question that has haunted me for half of my high school and all of my college career. A question that still haunts me to this day, but I sure learned a whole lot along the way.
One thing I wish I learned in high school was to read nonfiction books. That would have saved me so much hardship and would have significantly accelerated my growth as a leader and individual.
Luckily for you, you can still read. Here are my top book recommendations on leadership that changed my abilities as a leader (if you aren’t a reader, just grab an audio version and listen to it on the bus and while waiting after school. I mostly listen to the audios myself):
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (the book has a fair bit of filler but the subject matter is heavy-hitting)
- The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing The Challenges Of Extreme Ownership To Lead And Win (followup to the previous book)
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
- Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Guide
*Note, all hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliate links that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!
Speaking of books, I’ll quickly also shamelessly plug the resources page where I have my top esports business books that you’d want to read only if you are looking to work in esports (don’t waste your time reading those if you are only starting a club and not looking to work in esports further).
When you run this club, you are essentially a leader. You are leading your club, you are leading your members, you are leading your team and you are leading even your allied teacher.
You want to be a good leader. Trust me that my answer isn’t going to be perfect, but I’ll put it into the context of a school club. A leader has a vision, they know the direction the club should go. But a leader also listens, contemplates issues with their members and comes to a conclusion together on how he/she may need to adjust their vision based on other’s advice.
A good leader should be putting in the most leg work, but a good leader doesn’t micromanage the work that others want to or have been delegated to do.
Lastly, a leader should ensure that by working with the team on a common goal, that everyone gets something out of it. A good leader should ensure everyone feels involved and important to the project, but they cannot be too dependent on their members.
Let’s break down the last point a bit more.
I was never a charismatic leader, but I managed to get liked minded people involved in my projects, and even life. I’m not sure how that came to be, but I will speculate to hopefully provide more value to you, the reader.
That is, assuming you aren’t charismatic. If you are, just sell the club idea in a similar fashion to how you did with the teacher, but keeping in mind this new context.
If you are like me, I think the willingness to push an idea, something you care for, and by putting in the leg work, talented people just get attracted to the ideas you shoot forward.
One thing I noticed is that you need to build out the framework and plan out a bit before you can really attract people. Have something going for you, but you don’t need 100% of the plan, hell you don’t even need 50%. You need 20 (referring again to the 80/20 rule).
Once people join the club, you need to continually empathize with your common goal and give people full control over certain aspects. Does your club run a team, let someone be a team manager and don’t micromanage them (don’t tell them all what to do, let them experience it and figure it out).
By an aspect being fully controlled by someone, they feel like it’s their work, they control it and the team needs them to manage it otherwise the team would be hopeless without them.
That’s good, that’s a feeling of being valuable.
That’s my opinion at least. As I said, I still have a lot of work to do as a leader, but I hope to further learn and take on more experiences that will help me shape my future.
4. Prepare to Explain to the School Administration Why They Need Esports
Okay, now that you have gotten the team that you want to be involved in this project, now you will want to prepare to talk to your administration. But to do that you need to plan out what your club will actually do and the direction you’d like it to go.
Before we get into any of that, you want to make sure your teacher is not planning on talking to the administration alone and that they are willing to set up a meeting with your team and any school administration (be it the vice principal or whoever).
If the teacher says we can speak on your behalf, request to let your team do it/get involved. Why? Because, by doing so, you will not only build a connection with the administration that will greatly help your school build out creative ideas in the future, but it will also give you more real-life experience working in a bureaucracy and presenting an idea.
Use that latter point to hopefully reason with your allied teacher to be able to join with them or go alone to present your idea. If he really concludes that you shouldn’t speak to the administration or to let him speak first, either he is making the best call for the club or you may have picked the wrong teacher ally.
Most of the time the teacher may want to speak with the administration first before you go into present (which is 100% understandable and fine), but I cannot think of a good reason for why you are out of bounds from talking with the administration (unless they provide a plausible reason, whatever that could be I cannot imagine. But as long as you get to present your case, it’s better than nothing).
That said, this is important SO PAY ATTENTION (which is why it’s bolded). It’s very possible, you will go through all this work for step 4 and your school administration may not care. They may be willing to give you a classroom, as they may already be willing just through your teacher, but they may not care about your vision or plans at all. They may not support it, and they may have absolutely no reason for disregarding you.
It completely depends on the nature and culture of your high school, but believe me when I say this is more common than you think. Despite that, you should still go through this process, to not only learn about your capabilities as an individual, but also to learn about how much your school empowers students (if at all).
The few things I tried to do with my school were completely neglected, which goes to speak to a bit about how my school valued students taking initiative 🙄. The only cool things that happened in the school was with a teacher holding the student’s hands. That said, if I built a relationship with an admin, showing strong leadership skills and vision through selling the esports club idea when Mr. Yee was there to back me up, that possibly could have changed things (I’d believe it would have at least).
I just don’t want you to get discouraged if you fail and feel like talking to the school was time poorly invested. You will always fail, in business and in life. I learn that the hard way each and every day, but take those failures as a learning opportunity.
But who knows, they may take your ideas and get extremely excited and provide you with a massive amount of support!
If you are extremely confident that they won’t care at all, you could just leave this part to your allied teacher, but in my opinion, I’d recommend you take this as a free safe learning opportunity to put yourself out there and sell yourself and your idea!!!
Planning Your Pitch
Let’s talk a bit about how you will plan your pitch. For this one, making a PowerPoint presentation isn’t a terrible idea depending on the amount of time you have to speak with your school and what your current plans are.
Here is the cover of a slideshow I created after 2 years of our club (not to pitch our club, as it was already a thing thanks to Mr. Yee) to grow it further with full school support. I linked it below.
But, likely where you currently are positioned and with your plans for your club right now, you probably want to enter with just some print material (if you’d like) and just go through and educate them on esports through talking.
The following are a synopsis of how your pitch should go:
- Educating the administration present on what is esports and gaming
- Educating them on why esports and gaming in high school
- Informing them on what you are currently looking to do at the school (and connect them to how they will benefit the school where applicable)
- What you may currently need from the administration
- What your aspirations are for the school (provide examples of other schools doing things similar and list the benefits)
As you start planning your pitch, you want to start and have them not only interested in esports, but excited to see esports being pushed by students. You want to educate them on what this industry is about and how this opens up a ton of opportunities for their school.
Again, I listed several of those benefits below. Be sure to use that as a resource.
After that, talk about what you are wanting to do. Keep your initial activities small and reasonable. Let’s say it’s to host a series of tournaments.
Be careful when talking about running an esports team. Schools would look at that as an exclusive endeavour that isn’t open to everyone (ugh dumb schools). If that’s the route you want to go down, make sure to equate your tryouts to sports and make sure your game is school-friendly. I used to run Smash Bros Wii, but I didn’t even ask the school so I’m not sure if they would have even allowed us or not.
I may even start this entire presentation (of what you will do) by saying “As I know our school enables our students to take actions to prepare us for the real world and become world leaders” to play them up and make them more open to the idea of letting you run your events. Because if they don’t, it means the school isn’t what we calmed them to be (wanting to prepare students in the real world) In sales, we call that “building them up” (at least that’s what my mentor called it), when you compliment the person you are talking to in order to control certain aspects of the opposing party without them realizing it.
After that, you want to tell the school what you need from them. Within that section, you’d likely want to ask for their full support and gradual increase in trust and cooperation to make your school “a leader in this growing industry. It’s a matter of when, not if” sort of thing. In addition, obviously asking for the classroom and maybe a small budget.
Schools likely wouldn’t let you give prize money, but you should be able to get it by providing in-game currency. Hell, at the very least I’d hope you could buy food. In the end, however, it’s different school by school.
Lastly, you want to probably want to close to what this will build out to. Talk about the amazing opportunities and ideas you have that can come from this. But make sure you have examples of others that have done similar things to your creative ideas. Ideally schools and ideally local, but national and even international is okay.
It just can’t be outlandish, you need to realize that these school administrations don’t have any awareness of esports, its growth and its guaranteed penetration of the education system within the next 5 to 10 years.
If the administration may be hard to even sell them on your main idea of even being a club, you may want to exclude this part. Regardless, you never want to forget your aspirations and where you’d like to lead this club in the future (building it piece by piece every step of the way).
Preparing Material For the School Administration
Now let’s go a bit more in-depth about your method of communication and what tools you may bring in with you before talking to the administration.
First off, you want to decide the medium you want to present your content in. Will you be doing a PowerPoint or will it be an informal conversation? Should you create and bring an info sheet consisting of information about the esports industry?
This will depend on your school, and I’d get advice from my allied teacher about this.
Once you’ve determined that, get building away.
Although it’s not the greatest (and it’s also not following some of the principles I outlined above), I provided you my real-life example of my presentation I created for our school administration in the resources section below.
5. Talk to the School Administration
This step is self-explanatory. Dress up well, get good sleep the night before and just have fun with it. You are taking steps that most students couldn’t imagine doing. I know personally, I felt pretty cool 😎.
I’d say just remember, the worst that can come from this is that they want you to modify how your club will run. It’ll be hard to believe that they would crush all hope of even running a club, but they may disagree in how it’s executed or they may be unsure about the gaming/esports aspect of it.
That’s why it’ll be on you to have further conversations and help them understand the value of your club. You may have to ‘stretch the truth’ in terms of how you will conduct yourself (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t), but you will need to educate them not only at the start of your journey but throughout the process of your club’s lifeline.
6. Prepare Your Club to Launch
Once you get approval, it’s time to celebrate!….. until you realize you still have a load of work ahead of you. Enjoy a pizza with your team, but you will need to get to work and start really hashing out the specifics of your club.
Planning the Specifics of your Club
At this point in time, your team should have a good high-level idea of what your club will be doing, but you have yet to determine what specifically will be done each day.
Below is a list of items you will need to prepare for:
- Your initial marketing (posters, announcement material, social media content, etc)
- Your first club meeting (a presentation slide deck if desired, activity plan, any food/materials required)
- Your future club meeting plans (a high-level breakdown of what you plan to do in the near future which doesn’t have to be set in stone yet)
- Starting to gather material and building relationships with parties you are looking to be involved in
Now it’s finally the fun part, putting your imagination into action. Due to the nature of clubs and meetings, this usually isn’t an excessive amount of work, but work nonetheless. And the overall value and enjoyment of your club is proportional to the amount of effort and preparation you’ve done (in accordance with the 80/20 rule, 80% of your meeting’s value will come from 20% of all overall possible preparation).
I won’t break down the specifics for your marketing and the activities for your club as I want to leave that to your imagination. I also did break down the high level of stuff you can do below (as I mentioned earlier) in a section below the steps.
Instead, let me dive into how you can start gathering material (obviously free/low-cost material) for your club endeavours.
Gathering and Building the Materials
When doing anything in esports, due to the technological nature of the scene, you want to ensure you are using the best free services out there.
Back when I was starting out in esports, I had no idea what I was doing and I ended up doing things like this (which can also be found on the Discord server from the resources section):
I MADE THAT ON PAINT.EXE AND AN IMAGE I FOUND ONLINE! What a joke, but how was I supposed to know the right tools. I never had a very long and detailed guide like this one to help me out 😉
Below is a list of tools you can use to host your tournament
- Battlefy or Smash.gg (depending on your preference, Battlefy is better overall but Smash.gg has a better frontend interface and is preferred for fighting games and only fighting games)
- You can plan out the duration of your tournament with our tool (COMING SOON)
- Google Sheets for signups for a tournament planned manually
- Challonge’s Bracket Generator for a tournament planned manually
- Discord for online communications (both the club, for tournaments and for esports teams)
- Canva for posters and graphic design (if no one on your team has photoshop, illustrator or other graphics development software skills)
As for all non-technical materials, I’d recommend you talk to different club leaders, specifically the leader in the student body or another well-funded club to understand where they may be getting free material from.
You can also run fundraisers for your club. For most schools, however, you cannot charge students to participate in a tournament as that will go against their inclusion policies.
Our club never ran fundraisers, and I cannot think what would make sense besides entry fees to a tournament, that would make sense for an esports club.
However, you could possibly look for sponsorships. But recruiting sponsorships requires a lot of effort and work, so I wouldn’t advise it unless you have someone on your team committed and/or experienced to manage sponsorship hunting.
7. Start Promoting Your Club
As I mentioned a bit in the previous step, you will also need to promote your club. You can promote your club by doing the following activities:
- Including your club meeting date/times on the announcements. Be sure to use keywords such as “gaming” and “esports” in both the start and the middle of the announcement to catch the attention of gamers who would otherwise zone out and/or ignore the announcements outright. Use special events like tournaments and team tryouts as a way to attract even more students.
- Create posters to hang up around the school. A trick is to use a large number of the same posters and several small batches of variants of the poster. That way, when people see a different-looking poster from the main one, it will likely catch their attention, while the main-looking one is a constant reminder. Ensure the graphics yell gaming, especially the important/relevant games in your club
- Create a social media account beyond Discord and have other students and clubs promote your social media on theirs (retweet, include in a story, make a unique post). This may be a bit hard to do, but try to find a mutually beneficial agreement (like a collaboration project between your club and theirs, or both clubs promote each other assuming your club has some followers already)
- Set up a booth in the hallway (if doable in your school) and/or during the club fair. Make sure to learn the date and coordinate it with the school administration beforehand. Both years my gaming club was excluded from the club fair since I didn’t have any direct connection to administration (one of the many benefits of facilitating that connection yourself). Don’t be like me. Be smart.
8. Execute Your Plan
First off, congrats on making it this far. Obviously, at this point you should have most of your stuff together, but since most of you won’t be reading this article as you go and instead you’ll probably just read it all together; I’m going to go into a few things worth thinking about in terms of the execution of your plans and what your plans should specifically entail.
This will go without saying but have fun, don’t be afraid to experience new things and if things don’t work as well during the execution of the club (as it didn’t for my year 1, but I made necessary adjustments for year 2), that’s alright.
The fact that you’d even come this far and tried will really help you learn vital skills long term and you can always pivot your plans if the ship starts to sink.
Understanding your Audience
I wish someone gave me this advice when I started in my year 1. At the start, my club was going to be a LoL club only, although the school forced us to be called the gaming club.
Our first meeting had about 30-40 people, I’d say at least 10-20 people there played league.
But since we didn’t have PCs to play on, the goal of the club was just to watch replays, give advice on how to get better and help teach newer players how to play the game.
Man was that a dumb idea. Turns out, gamers don’t want to watch replays during their lunch. I completely discarded what the audience may actually want.
That turned out to be the downfall of the club. Our 2nd meeting had about 20 people, the 3rd had about 5 and the 4th had 1.
The club started later in the year so we didn’t have too many meetings after that. That said, I was able to turn it around by taking feedback in the next year, which leads me to the next point.
I got feedback from a bunch of students on what they wanted to see. They just wanted to play games. So year 2 I ended up bringing my Wii (which was an outdated console with the Wii U and Switch proceeding it) and ran a Smash Bros Wii and Mario Kart tournament.
Those were massive hits, but they could be even better. To increase the quality of these events, I got more feedback to understand what everyone wanted.
With that feedback, we made adjustments throughout. Don’t be afraid of making adjustments, at least ones that you can.
One of the feedback we got was to have more games running at once with more consoles. The issue was we only had 1 projector.
Honestly, I may have been able to grab more projectors with what I know now, but back then as a high school student, I didn’t realize or think of it.
Regardless, I dislike seeing TOs and club admins discard advice and just not implement it.
Implementation will be your bread and butter to any business idea or organization you run now and in the future.
Engaging with the Members and Making Them Feel Valuable
This is probably one of the biggest points that really helped in year 2, the members that were joining actually felt special.
How? Because I, as the club leader, started to learn their names, personality and engaged with them as friends or at least schoolmates.
As a result, we made members who ended up engaging significantly more, looked forward to the club and were willing to engage.
I remember 3 members in particular from year 2 that are some guys that I’d occasionally talk to even to this day.
It’s not even a selfless act, by enhancing their experience, you will enhance your own experience from it.
What are The Benefits of an Esports Club
This article is significantly longer than I desired it to be. That said, I promised to include benefits, therefore I will include benefits in bullet points.
- Encourages teamwork between players in running a team and/or club administration
- Esports is a growing industry with many job opportunities opening up that require students who are well versed in running their own tournaments, managing teams and many other skills that must be leveraged in an esports club
- Many colleges and universities are now carrying scholarships for best performing players. These clubs can help garner and showcase that skill
- Creates fun, welcoming stress-free environments, especially for more introverted students who are more “nerdy” or are “gamers” who have trouble socializing or finding other things at their school of interest
One note, you will want to take those broad general benefits and determine local or national examples of schools implementing them.
What Can Your Club Do
To the same point above, super long article already but I still wanted to shoot some ideas. You will have to figure out the direction you want to go and what may work best for you.
Well, here are some ideas for what your esports club can do:
- Host physical gaming tournaments using PCs, consoles or mobile devices (for mobile, think Clash Royale, Clash of Clans, PUBG Mobile, League of Legends Wild Rift, COD Mobile)
- Assuming you don’t have PCs at school that you can use for gaming, you can host PC-based tournaments at home (like we ended up doing nearing the end of year 1)
- Host viewing parties to watch the tier 1 esports tournaments together (works the best for the finals of certain games)
- Create an esports team to compete in local or national tournaments (HSEL and PlayVS are good places to check out for that)
- Support esports entrepreneurial opportunities and help students interested in that specific industry start developing skills (if you are interested and want help on this last one, feel free to shoot me an email; email@example.com)
I won’t waste your time by citing random resources that may or may not apply to you. I won’t just come and list the first things I find on Google. No! I will cite real things my club and I did, real information and pictures we made years ago. These aren’t perfect, some of this stuff isn’t even good.
But, it will provide you with real tangible items you can actually use in your project and day-to-day life. I will also open up our Discord server (which has been fully archived and is no longer in use) so you can see how we started our operations.
We stopped using this Discord earlier than we intended and we switched to a newer one and I’d share that one as well although most of the club didn’t place on that server anyway. Regardless, it’s better to see us at our worst from where we started out and not our best and make you feel as if you need to get to that level at day one.
Editor note, I really wanted to provide good information and really help you guys with some legit resources. That’s why I’ve been boasting about them all article long. However, I’m coming to realize most of my earliest documents, slideshows and graphics were on my student account which is now likely deleted 🙄. I can only throw in what I can, I’M SO SORRY!!
I will also make some comments below on some things below.
First Esports Club Discord Server: We did a lot wrong with our server, but the fact that we even ended up creating a server was exceptionally lucky as it ended up allowing us to run PC tournaments from home which became significantly more popular than the club itself. That said, take it with a grain of salt in terms of formatting, check out the announcements and get an idea of what you can do: https://discord.gg/yq5t2sT
Student Organization Discord Server: This was the server we switched to after the online tournaments were taking off to the point that people outside our school wanted to play. For some reason, probably to boost this server’s numbers, we ended up having the 2nd year of communication for the club done on this. This actually was going to be a registered legal nonprofit corporate, but due to my weakness as a leader (as I mentioned earlier), we had some issues getting things off the ground and it folded after about a little more than a year of operation: https://discord.gg/UbDvVveX
Fun fact, I was going to not let anyone join the Soliac Association server (the link above) for privacy reasons, so I broke all permanent join links (so you couldn’t find them in the first server). Then I realized that it was originally a public server so privacy isn’t a concern and now I’m just annoyed with the fact that I broke all those invite links 🙁
Tournament Planning Document: These were for planning some LOL:WOT tournament we did, it looks kind of weird ngl. I can’t recall what exactly it was for or why, but hey at least I still have it.
Fake Photos: I won’t be sharing these as some photos include faces of people who didn’t give permission. That said, I’ll show one image and explain what this was all about.
Basically, we wanted some photos for marketing purposes. But our school computers restrict games. So we ended up getting pictures of the games and threw it on the computer screen to make the picture look like we are gaming.
You can tell in this case because you can see the black bars on the screen on the left and right sides as the picture was limited to that size (but League of Legends, the game on screen, is always a full-screen game).
School Administration Presentation: This proposal was made for our year 3 esports club we wanted to help start-up upon graduating. That said, due to personal issues (pretty bad gaming addiction), fear of failure and the Soliac Association hackathon event we were hosting in a few months from then, SoliHack, we never presented it. I wish we did, I’m not sure what the outcome would have been.
Special Tournament Planning Document: These (2 links) coincides with the presentation we linked above. We were planning out the tournament, it’s a pretty basic document but you will get kind of the idea.
Prospective Sponsors List: Pretty weak list of sponsors we wanted to reach out to because as you may recall, the school refused to help us financially at all. We never acted upon these, but we should have.