Spring Break esports camps promise ‘happier, healthier’ games

Editor’s note: The web version of this story contains added content that did not appear in the April 1 print edition.

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Local youth have a new opportunity — or perhaps a twist on an old hobby — they can connect to during spring break.

Affinity Esports (eSports) Founder Mark Kilpatrick is on a mission to create safe spaces for happier, healthier gamers, and runs Spring Break Camps at his 27 Glen Road facility in partnership with Newtown Parks and Recreation.

“I’m really excited about the program. I think once it gets off the ground, it’s going to really blossom,” assistant recreation director RoseAnn Reggiano said, adding that it’s aimed at middle and high school kids who are often looking for things to do. in their free time.

Recreational clinics cover basic to advanced play while placing kids in a social environment that requires teamwork, critical thinking, quick decision-making and leadership, according to Kilpatrick, whose Esports camps will run from April 11 to 15.

Kilpatrick’s background and experience, which has guided this initiative, includes years of counseling and coaching at Northwest Soccer Camp, training with the American Youth Soccer Organization, time as a college ambassador and assistant resident.

He is a lifelong player and an advocate for the benefits that a healthy game can provide. It will have expert coaches and recreational supervisors from high school and college programs who will help develop the fundamentals of the game.

“Affinity Esports seeks to work with local institutions such as Post University, Fairfield University and University of New Haven to provide our members with coaching, programs and greater access to collegiate opportunities within Esports,” Kilpatrick added.

Dan Coonan of Newtown, commissioner and CEO of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), said the conference has been on board with esports for a few years and that Affinity Sports fills a need.

“ECAC, which has existed for 85 years as an interuniversity athletics conference for traditional sports, decided to dive into esports as well four years ago and we haven’t looked back. We have now 130 member colleges and universities in ECAC Esports, fielding 800 teams in 14 different esports titles, with over 4,000 total competitors. And our esports footprint is now nationwide. We plan to continue our exponential growth in this space for the foreseeable future,” Coonan said.

“Our colleges and universities see so many benefits in having esports teams. The player experience teaches so many valuable lessons that students learn from being part of a team in traditional sports. these schools, it has boosted enrollment in an otherwise difficult time and attracts the type of STEM students that many of these schools covet. Many schools are also adding academic esports programs to train students to join this burgeoning industry.” , Coonan added.

Coonan noted that Affinity Sports provides a great opportunity for locals.

“Mark and Affinity Esports fill an important need in the esports ecosystem. I like their approach and admire their desire to organize esports for young people in the region and to prepare young people for the possibilities that could arise in university and beyond for those who want to become players, either either as a hobby or as a vocation. I believe he will do very well in this endeavor, and our local parents and young people will be very well served by his efforts,” Coonan said.

There will be an Esports Spring Break Camp via Rocket League, a 3-on-3 fantasy sports game, developed by Psyonix, described as “soccer with cars”. It offers a competitive game mode based on teamwork and mastery of opponents.

Players work with their team to move the ball upfield and score goals into their opponent’s net.

Additionally, there will be an Esports Spring Break Camp via League of Legends, a 5v5 team-based strategy game developed by Riot Games. Two teams of five powerful champions compete to defeat each other’s base.

Choose from over 140 champions to play epic matches, secure kills, and take down towers as you battle your way to victory.

Visit https://www.newtown-ct.gov/parks-recreation, click on the Spring & Summer 2022 Brochure tab and scroll to pages 9-10 for more details and to register. Camp costs are $175 and $225.

Here are some other points from Mark Kilpatrick:

Q: How are esports games different from other games/what makes them unique?

A: Esports is really best defined as “organized competitive gaming”. There are many parallels between esports and traditional sports in terms of training regiments and routines, teamwork and communication, and actual competition against other teams and players. What makes it so unique in the wider world of gaming is how it opens players up to a team environment in a safe, structured environment designed for everyone. It takes schoolyard football or shooting hoops and adds coaches, a curriculum and a development-based mindset to help individuals and teams improve inside and out. outside the game while defining healthy habits for their lives.

Q: How do players interact and what are the benefits of esports games?

A: For me, the benefits of having programming like this and structured pathways in the world of esports is a big piece that is missing in the local and national ecosystem. There have been huge strides on the professional and college scene to open up opportunities for themselves, but what’s missing is a broader system to give young players the access, structure and resources they need. early to prepare for the “next level”. We provide safe spaces for happier, healthier play by allowing local children to join programs that interest them, play on amazing equipment, engage with other children in surrounding communities, and be exposed to players, coaches and college programs throughout the process. We are also implementing competency-based monitoring to help children and parents understand strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement that exist across all of our programs.

Q: How excited are you for spring camps?

A: I’m beyond thrilled that we’re a few weeks away and the starting line is in sight. As this launch event approaches, I think back to my childhood and having the opportunity to pursue a passion for competitive gaming in an environment that my parents could support would have been a dream come true. It accompanies me every day as I prepare to provide the best possible opportunities for local children and their families. I am living my dream by starting this organization and hope that through the work we do, children and parents can also see their dreams come true through new perspectives and experiences with gaming and esports. I found exactly what I needed to do and I’m extremely lucky to be able to work within a community like Newtown and Sandy Hook as a launching pad to bring this dream to life.

Q: How does esports improve academic performance?

A: Anything that is structured and empowering for young people will have a direct impact on an individual who is working to become better. Or, at a minimum, it will provide them with additional perspective and an opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity. The other aspect is that not all students learn in the same way. Game-based learning is currently a hot topic that many organizations are looking to master. Combining this with self-assessment and team assessment and regular discussions with program participants has the power to unlock skill sets they don’t learn through traditional means. So while esports and organized competition have the ability to be a tool of empowerment, it is an alternative mechanism to educate and develop soft skills that are so commonly sought after in the job market. of today. Finally, the college scene has seen an explosion with esports, with an overwhelming number of schools having club and university programs, scholarships being awarded, and degrees in various parts of esports. All of this has the ability to spark a thought, dream, or future path that can accelerate a student academically.

Q: Can you comment on how your football coaching experience relates to the game?

A: I grew up playing traditional sports (mainly football) and participating in local counter-strike tournaments from an early age. Ultimately, I curtailed my competitive gaming activities and was recruited to play football for Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida. Having had that experience in football, coaching youth camps and AYSO, it gave me a solid foundation to bring that back into youth programming, club teams and esports camps. Granted, the esports arena is virtual, but as someone who grew up in the first wave of esports and simultaneously pursued college football, I can tell you that the experience has strong parallels, and more importantly, the passion is just as real.

Kilpatrick and his family moved to town in May 2020, after living nearly a decade in New York (Roosevelt Island).

“We are so thrilled to have landed here and fallen in love with the community. It’s a special place to live and for Emily (my wife) and I to raise our two little girls (Zoey, 2.5 and Lily, 4 months) Very excited for the future and continuing to grow as part of the community,” said Kilpatrick.

Affinity Esports will offer eight weeks of after-school programs beginning in mid-April and continuing through mid-June (Monday through Wednesday, three sessions per day). And there will be five weeks of summer camps, also through Newtown Parks and Recreation.

Space rental is available for private and organizational use. For more information, visit affinityesports.gg, email mark@affinityesports.gg or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Sportswriter Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Affinity Esports founder Mark Kilpatrick hosts April holiday gaming camps for kids aged 8-18 at his facility at 27 Glen Road. —Bee Photo, Hutchison