Rotherham United Esports has been awarded a grant from the National Lottery Awards For All charity initiative to open an ‘Esports School’.
The initiative is aimed at tackling physical and mental-health problems caused by COVID-19 through the use of esports and gaming.
The organisation, which is now a ‘community interest company’ (designed for social enterprises that use profits and assets for social improvement), will give young people a ‘social and virtual gaming platform’ to improve their social skills and counter the effects of loneliness caused by national lockdowns.
The project will offer coaching — particularly in FIFA — using gaming to help those struggling with mental-health problems. When safe, the organisation also plans to take participants that have been in isolation to physical events, including charity, football or other sporting events, as well as providing team-building and social opportunities.
Robert Hawden, Rotherham United Esports Co-founder, said on the club’s output so far: “When we started this journey over two years ago, we never knew what we would find when scratching the surface. We found that a fair percentage of our participants had issues with health, whether it was physical health problems such as obesity, or mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety.
“As we already work with the Rotherham United Community Sports Trust, who already do so much to improve the wellbeing of many of their participants, we’re well aware of the impact a project such as this can have, and with the help of sponsors and grant funding, we will be able to ramp up our reach and offer esports coaching and other brilliant opportunities to many others who we may not have otherwise reached.”
Previously, the club, in partnership with the Virtual Pro Gaming League and Rotherham United Sports College, created the RUFC Development Squad. College students and other gamers were given a platform by the club to learn FIFA Pro Clubs competitively, providing a mental release and the opportunity to learn social skills.
Fellow Co-founder David Raybould added: “I would like to say a massive thank you to the National Lottery players and everyone else who has made it possible to get us to this point. We now have a great and unique footing, in which we can combat these health problems which are affecting many. We feel the use of esports in this way will be a real game-changer and we are really looking forward to seeing this project grow and succeed.”
Esports Insider says: This is an incredibly heart-warming initiative in a time when so many are struggling just to get through the day. We don’t yet know the full impact of national lockdowns on children, and it seems they’re often forgotten in the mental-health discussion. This is admirable work from Rotherham United Esports. All involved deserve enormous credit.