The Launch of FLSEL

LOL. Smash, Rocket League….Oh My! Yes, all online competitive gaming programs, also known as esports. What is esports? Or better asked, what is FLSEL?

FLSEL, the Florida Scholastic Esports League, is a Florida nonprofit organization, that is the formal Florida affiliate of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), the most prolific education based esports program in the country. So, what is it REALLY all about?

Well, as a lifelong educator, and someone who cares deeply about giving kids an opportunity to learn, grow and thrive, I inadvertently stumbled upon NASEF and after some investigation was blown away. Kids playing competitive esports - playing video games on teams - and actually learning?? NASEF had developed an actual California state accredited full four-year high school curriculum along with similarly approved curriculum for all 15 Career Tech standards. And then it occurred to me, this is a more grown up version of what I was doing at LEGO Education, connecting Play with learning!! So, why not do this in Florida!! With the help and support of NASEF and the Samueli Foundation, I decided to use my work and knowledge connecting play and learning from LEGO Education to building out Florida’s version of NASEF.

That was literally in September of 2019. Little did I know or realize what I had gotten myself into. But how exciting, feeling like I was at the forefront of offering a whole new opportunity to students across the state. What a great feeling being able to take kids out of their bedrooms with headsets on and putting them in a structured classroom setting where they could play, and pursue their passion, and learn at the same time.

Turns out, I was not the only one who saw the potential. In talking with colleagues from Miami Dade, Broward, St. Lucie, Hillsborough School districts and others, I saw a huge amount of passion amongst kids wanting to play esports, and educators frustrated not knowing how to deal with it. I was fortunate enough to engage in a deeper conversation with Jane Whittaker from St. Lucie who coincidentally had the same passion as I. Putting our heads together, we conceived the idea of bringing eight school districts together, and with the support of NASEF, and the Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, Gerald Solomon, we hosted Florida's first-ever strategic planning and training session on scholastic esports (a concept very different from other esports programs that lack state-approved curriculum that also charge money to play).

At that gathering, the excitement was truly palpable! Everyone was energized to take the NASEF model and replicate it here. And in the spirit of “ready, shoot, aim”…each participant went back to their districts and began activating clubs at the NASEF website at www.esportsfed.org

Becoming an affiliate of NASEF has allowed us to form our own state organization while tapping into the great resources of a national scholastic federation. Not everyone has a background in running esports tournaments, writing an educational curriculum, helping schools launch individual clubs, and many other aspects of running a statewide esports league. 

NASEF affiliates like ours receive marketing support, their own website, direct access to NASEF’s learning and competitive programs and activities, including all toolkits, curricula, competition, career pathway development, coaches, contests, community events, live events, webinars, calls, and learning challenges.

Additionally, all NASEF affiliates receive direct access to NASEF’s learning and competitive programs and activities, including all toolkits, curricula, competition, career pathway development, coaches, contests, community events, live events, webinars, calls, and learning challenges.

Best of all, it costs nothing to become an affiliate! To learn more about NASEF’s affiliate program, go to: https://www.esportsfed.org/about/affiliates/affiliate-program/

Now, as I write this blog, I can honestly say, I am more amazed than ever!! In four short months we have nearly a hundred clubs activated within FLSEL, in Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Volusia, St. Lucie, Duval, Hillsborough and others activating literally on a daily basis. And what makes this so awesome is the scholastic premise and foundation. It is more than a simple competitive esports game. It includes all aspects of learning from content creation, to innovation, to entrepreneurship, and beyond. AND, best of all, FLSEL honors and respects all components of the scholastic esports ecosystem, ranging from logo design, to fandom art, to web development, to event planning to data analytics, and more.

I have to admit, I truly did not know what I had gotten myself into! And in the same breath have to say, it’s one of the best decisions I have made!!