Industry Insights


3 Surprising Benefits of Esports to the Youth Sports Industry

By Melissa Wickes
May 3, 2023
3 min

To youth sports leaders who live and die out on the field, the rise in Esports—also known as electronic sports or competitive video gaming—may be a scary idea. The pandemic only expedited the growth of this industry, and the Esports market is anticipated to grow to a value of $5.74 billion USD by 2023.  

You may be wondering, will kids stop playing physical sports because they’d rather play on the screen? I can’t compete with these addictive, dopamine-inducing games!

Will kids stop going outside? 

Am I going to lose my job?!

Let’s face it: we live in a digital, youth-centric culture and that is changing what “playing sports” means. It’s time the youth sports industry accepts that and learns how to leverage the benefits of esports for business growth and team success, instead of fighting them.  

The benefits of Esports are already impacting the youth sports industry in a big way.  Here are 3 benefits of the Esports industry and how you can leverage them to grow your business.

  1. Esports are getting more kids interested in sports

At the end of the day, there are many young people who are simply not born interested in running around and playing sports. In fact, according to the Aspen Institute State of Play 2022, 27% of youth sports parents perceived their child has lost interest in playing sports—an increase from 18-19% in 2020.

 Maybe they’re self conscious about their athletic ability, don’t find it fun, they have a disability that makes it difficult to participate, or there’s some other barrier to play. Esports is helping those kids find new passions in sport through gaming.

  1. Esports are making sports more accessible

In addition to physical barriers to sport, there are financial and geographical barriers that hinder kids from getting involved. (That’s why we founded FundPlay Foundation). 

Esports removes more of those barriers because they can be played anywhere (as long as you have a gaming console and internet). If a kid is unable to travel to a location, afford equipment, or afford the program itself, Esports is an alternative opportunity for them to benefit from the lessons learned while playing team sports—like teamwork, sportsmanship, grit, and communication. 

  1. Esports are teaching sports skills off the court

You may have noticed in practice that the more you demonstrate engaging and exciting parts of a sport, the more kids want to mimic it—like a bicycle kick or a half-court shot. Esports can support this idea—like NBA 2K, for example. Games are getting so advanced that they can simulate things that are actually happening on the field, and they’re helping kids learn more about the sport, Kazeem Famuyide, on-air talent at MSG Entertainment Group, said at the 2022 NextUp Conference.

“FIFA helped me understand global football more than anything else,” said Paul Rabil, founder of Premier Lacrosse League and former professional Lacrosse player. “A sport from lacrosse could benefit from that learning.”

These games may not have the exact same effect that a little hustle on the field can have, but they are still teaching critical skills like creative problem solving and teamwork. Almost more importantly, they’re fun—and they remind kids just how fun sports can be.

How to Leverage the Benefits of Esports as a Leader in Youth Sports

No one is arguing that Esports will replace traditional sports—and hopefully, no one wants that (at least not the people we surround ourselves with!). But, there are ways the growing industry can actually bolster youth sports participation through newfound interest in sports, skill-teaching, and accessibility. By accepting Esports as a force in the industry, you’ll be able to find new streams of growth and revenue.

Are you interested in joining us at the next NextUp Event in NYC in October? We’ll have leading voices in the youth sports industry presenting on trending topics, like Esports.  Click here to be the first to know about the 2023 conference and get access to early bird registration.