Katie Szustak and Hannah Poulin, of Lewiston, play with some of the video games at CMCC’s Esports open house in April 2019. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

JAY — The Regional School Unit 73 directors last week approved starting an esports program and hiring a coach at last Thursday’s meeting.

Spruce Mountain High School athletic director Marc Keller proposed the new activity at the June 11 board meeting. The Maine Principals’ Association announced in May that it will begin offering esports as an extracurricular activity at high schools starting this fall.

“I was all for it last meeting until I started thinking. Now I have some concern about making kids active, getting them off their devices,” director Dale Leblanc said Thursday.

Red Sox pitcher David Price missed about half a year a few years ago after getting tendonitis in his wrist from playing Fortnite, Leblanc added.

“As a former athletic director, with any sport there’s a risk of injury,” RSU 73 Board Chairman Robert Staples said. “My feeling is kids who would participate are going to be on their computers anyway, not intending to play in other team sports.”

Requiring physical training to get kids in shape could be a requirement, director Andrew Sylvester suggested.

“These kids doing this are glued to their computers,” Keller said. “It’s a great idea, getting some training, but I could see it as being a deterrent.

“For some of these kids, having a fitness component to it, they might shy away from it. I would be careful of it.”

Director Doug DiPasquale asked if students playing a fall sports can also participate in esports.

“The esports season is different, it starts in September,” Keller said. “It doesn’t match traditional sports programs. I would have to look at that, figure out how to classify that.”

“It’s a great idea,” director Ann Schwab said. “Kids in Envirothon and Robotics do baseball, other sports.

“Get the occupational therapist involved doing some training on ergonomics, encouraging frequent stretch breaks.”

Video gaming was more the norm during high school, not that long ago for me, director Phoebe Pike said.

“Mountain Valley had a gaming club,” she said. “Kids competed against each other. These were not the same kids participating in sports.

“One boy originally was not part of any sports, any other club, because his health wasn’t too great. When he started playing these games, one was Dance Dance Revolution. He ended up getting fit. Now he competes in weightlifting because he felt inspired to do that through this non-judgmental zone. Video games offered him that, not based on his physical performance, but on his hand-eye coordination.

“I think it’s a great program, a great idea to give our students a more inclusive place to be.”

TENNIS COURT IMPROVEMENTS

Progress is being made on a grant application for the tennis courts, Keller told the board.

The HollandStrong Foundation began work at the tennis courts located next to Spruce Mountain Elementary School last August. That work led to the discovery that the courts’ formation had been funded by a grant through the Bureau of Forestry and Public Lands.

In January, the district agreed to assume obligation for the tennis courts which the Town of Jay gave to RSU 73 district when the district was formed.

A site visit is needed, but approval has been given to apply for the grant, Keller said.

Efforts to improve the tennis courts near Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay are continuing. Work begun by the Hollandstrong Foundation, seen here last August, led to the discovery that a Bureau of Forestry and Public Lands grant paid to build the courts. File photo

“In the last 10 days we’ve been pulling the grant together,” he said. “We’re waiting on some outside agencies to give us some information and we’ll have it available to review at the next meeting. The application is due July 31.”

DiPasquale asked if all paperwork from the town been obtained so that only the district is involved now.

“We received the information about 10 days ago. It’s been forwarded to the attorney general,” Keller said.

“Our lawyer looked at it,” Superintendent Scott Albert said. “It should have been automatically turned over to us when the regional school unit was formed.”

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