The National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD) sat down with Dusty Young, the New Mexico Activities’s Associate (NMAA) Associate Director, for an interview about its esports program. Both discussed the program's current state, how it’s educating parents, and the benefits it can bring to the youth of New Mexico.
NAECAD: What is the current state of the NMAA esports program?
Dusty Young: "So esports is really thriving here in New Mexico at the high school level. We sanctioned it as an official activity under our umbrella back in the 2018-19 school year, so we are starting Year 4 with esports as something under the NMAA scope of activities that we offer and it has really grown year after year, you know? We were, unfortunately, in Year 2 of the program when the [COVID-19] pandemic started and I think that obviously impacted the number of schools that could participate and what not.
But really, things are going well. We have tons of support across the state. I think last year, we had about 800 kids that were participating in esports and close to 60 schools. We only have about 60 schools that have wrestling programs across the state so esports, in just a few years, has grown significantly.
We keep offering more titles for our kids to participate in. We have some of those traditional sports games that everyone is familiar with like Madden and FIFA but [we] also have the more popular games that other folks may not have heard of before like League of Legends, Rocket League, and SMITE. It’s something here in New Mexico that we’re very proud of and we feel will continue to grow for years and years to come.
NAECAD: How is the NMAA educating parents about esports?
Dusty Young: That’s always the tough part, we have direct communication with our member schools through our athletic directors, principals, superintendents, and coaches, but it’s sometimes hard to reach those parents. Again, I think there are some stereotypes out there [like] ‘Why would we encourage our kids to participate in video games?’ so we really rely on our schools to help pass the word on to their communities and let them know that this is different.
This isn’t your son or daughter locking themselves in the basement for five hours and playing video games on their own. This is about engaging with their peers and showing them the same teamwork and skills that they would normally learn on the football field but just in a computer lab.
I think collaboration is key when it comes to success in esports. When you have a team of three or five, you’re relying on that kid that’s next to you just like you are when you’re participating in team sports. We rely on our schools to help educate their communities, but we also try to provide as many resources as we can on our website.
NAECAD: How has the esports program positively impacted the youth of New Mexico?
Dusty Young: "We are all about participation when it comes to the NMAA and our mission and vision is that we want kids to be engaged. It’s our firm belief that extracurricular activities are an extension of the classroom and because of that, it’s an important part of the educational process.
As I mentioned earlier, we are attracting a whole new demographic that may not have participated in anything at their school if it wasn’t for their esports program. Kids that may be silent or shy and they’re not putting themselves in social situations quite often, but now they’re a part of a team and what we’re hoping is that will help them build life skills just like when kids are playing basketball, running track, and being around team members, coaches, and other educators. They’re going to help them grow and become better citizens once they leave high school.
So again, I think it’s been a huge positive impact just to have another opportunity to participate in something that’s school-based and keep them engaged not only with their peers but with educators that can help them along the way as well.