YMCA of Greater San Antonio launches esports program

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YMCA of Greater San Antonio launches esports program

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: This content was created exclusively for KSAT Explains, a streaming show that dives deep into the biggest issues facing San Antonio and South Texas. Watch past episodes here and download the free KSAT Plus app to stay up on the latest.

The YMCA of Greater San Antonio is the latest organization to offer young gamers a place to compete. The nonprofit launched a new esports program this month.

The esports industry has experienced explosive growth over the past decade. And for the past couple of years, the pandemic has further fueled this growth, as more young people have sought out ways to connect and compete. It’s one of the reasons the YMCA of Greater San Antonio decided to launch an esports program.

“We’re always asking, what could we offer that we’re not currently?” said Patrick Bryant, executive director of sports at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. “With COVID and a shutdown in our community, there was this desire to find more virtual options.”

Before they officially launched, YMCA ran a few pilot programs, and gave local families the opportunity to take part and provide feedback. They quickly learned that starting an esports program presents unique challenges.

“In a gaming world, that technology tends to be expensive,” Bryant said. “We’re able to provide a low-cost option.”

Bryant also wanted to find someone who had the expertise needed to run the new program. This led him to Chris Saenz, who has been working locally in esports for the past several years. He’s the owner of Texas Gaming Empire, an organization that hosts tournaments and provides educational opportunities for local gamers.

The esports program is starting as a regional one, but Saenz already has big plans for the future.

“We’re starting off by including Austin, so we’ll have some friendly San Antonio, Austin rivalries,” Saenz said. “Then we’ll just have to develop and cultivate that culture across Texas.”

Over the next six weeks, YMCA of Greater San Antonio, and their new partners at YMCA of Austin, will recruit kids ages 12 to 18. The inaugural spring season is slated to begin the week of March 28. They plan to run a variety of games, including Madden, Super Smash Bros and Fortnite.

“It’s really exciting to be able to work with new families that are into this type of experience,” Bryant said. “This program can really take off and provide a lot of opportunity for kids in San Antonio, and that’s going to be exciting to see and watch develop.”

If you’re interested in enrolling your child, visit YMCA’s website.

YMCA’s new program is just the latest development in the esports world in San Antonio. An esports arena is set to open on Port San Antonio’s campus later this year and more local schools are creating esports teams. You can learn all about the local esports scene by watching the latest episode of KSAT Explains. Watch in the video player below or by clicking here.

About the Authors:

Valerie Gomez is lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. She began her career in 2014 and has been with KSAT since 2017. She helped create KSAT’s first digital-only newscast in 2018, and her work on KSAT Explains and various specials have earned her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media and multiple Emmy nominations.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.