Boys & Girls Clubs, NASCAR rev up Esports

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Mar 7, 2022, 11:45 AM | Updated: Mar 30, 2022, 10:40 am


Kyler is 12 years old and has been a “Club Kid” in Mesa for the past two years. He’s also one heck of a Rocket League player.

“I like the game because, it’s like soccer, but with cars, and tricks, and lots of things to know about it.”

And that’s precisely why the idea of playing “video games” has shattered old perceptions, to the point of spawning official “Esports” leagues at the professional, college and high school level.

Because studies are proving that games like Rocket League, with its fun, but mentally and physically challenging characteristics, are helping kids improve their memory, build their social skills and sharpen their decision making abilities.

And it’s why Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley is developing more Esports/Gaming activities for the 13,000-plus kids they serve.

“We’ve had a very consistent base of members who are like ’Oh! We want to play Esports and we already love these games!’” said Leon Ortega, Boys & Girls Clubs Program Manager. “Now we’re helping them refine their skills so they can experience it all at an even higher level.”

That higher level also includes a close partnership with NASCAR and Phoenix Raceway, which is holding “GamerThons” for Club Kids as part of their national partnership announced last April.

“Esports and Gaming in the NASCAR culture is extremely important,” said Ray Smith, Senior Manager, Gaming & Esports, NASCAR. “We’re trying to reach a new community. We’re trying to talk to new fans. We’re trying to create a new conversation and new experiences for families.”

GamerThons are produced by the Clubs, NASCAR and gaming solutions company Zelus Esports to give Club Kids the chance to compete with each other locally and, with the help of the Arizona Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, across the state. Clubhouse winners not only earn bragging rights, they get to play in front of NASCAR audiences on Race Weekends, with behind-the-scenes tours and other exclusive raceway experiences.

GamerThons are also helping Clubs connect with new, younger and hard to reach donor audiences through public tournaments that recreational gamers can compete in for cash and prizes like signed NASCAR merchandise and Race tickets.

“Galas and Golf Tournaments are tried and true fundraisers for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley,” said Jill Johnson, Senior Director of Business Development. “But we also know there’s a great big world of ‘gamers’ that we need to tap into so they can become familiar with our mission and help support our kids for years to come. And this focus is also helping us attract new Sponsors and supporters who share our same gamer engagement goals.”

Brands like Arizona Lottery and FanShield supported the inaugural GamerThon last November and many more are expressing interest in participating in future ones.

“Programs like this help create equity for kids, especially those in under-resourced areas.  GamerThons are open to all Club members and everyone can compete at the same level and win prizes that are focused on unique experiences,” said FanShield’s Casey Callinsky. “Helping organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley make sure that all young people have access to STEM programs that are fun and engaging like GamerThon is a priority for us.”

One thing is certain. Esports and Gaming are here to stay. And for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley, NASCAR, and Phoenix Raceway, they’re unlocking a partnership made in game console heaven.

“One of the focuses in our Clubs is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) projects and getting people interested in STEM. And Esports and Gaming is one of those ways” said Carrie Aranda, Director of Donor Services for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley. “Kids like video games! There’s a connection between STEM activities and video gaming! And NASCAR is the ultimate STEM experience!”

Finals for the Club Kids GamerThon will be held at Phoenix Raceway on the Saturday of Race Weekend, March 12th and 13th.  The public GamerThon Tournament, which is being sponsored by Fry’s Food Stores, is now registering Rocket League players for its free one-day event on Friday, March 11th. Gamers are encouraged to register at GamerThon.org by March 10th.

Zelus Esports

Boys & Girls Clubs, NASCAR rev up Esports