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Special Olympic Texas increases esports involvement, helping athletes with more life skills

For those Special Olympic athletes who'd rather play with a controller than a ball, Special Olympics Texas is offering more and more opportunities.

GEORGETOWN, Texas — To those who think video games can be a waste of time, you might need to reconsider after watching AJ Batiste, Bruce Clarke and Eli Burgett play.

"We started this during the pandemic as an opportunity for our athletes to participate in virtual activities," said Batiste. "In order to be a Special Olympics athlete and participate as an athlete, you have to have some sort of intellectual disability. This program really allows us to empower our athletes to do great things."

It's empowering athletes like Burgett to connect with more friends.

"Making new friends through Special Olympics is a great opportunity," he said. "That's something that I have been looking forward to is meeting new friends through Special Olympics."

It's helping with new friends like Bruce Clarke, who's empowered by the organization.

"Bruce here helps us decide on the schedule for gaming," said Batiste, who works for Special Olympics Texas.

"Like AJ said, I'm a part of our esports committee," said Clarke.

But if you thought new friends and responsibilities were all they learn, you'd be wrong.

"What we'll do is we'll teach communication," explained Batiste before Burgett let him know where to be in the game. "We see a lot of growth in our athletes; we see a lot of communication from our athletes."

They are working together to win. To increase their program, Special Olympics Texas and Localhost, an esports center, have teamed up to offer athletes a place to play. In the next year, Batiste is hoping their program progresses to where there will be coaches and teams across the state. All of those would then be able to play against each other, getting more athletes these skills.

"You know, it's teaching those life skills, teaching those teamwork skills, in a setting where we're not necessarily playing our traditional sports," said Batiste. "[It's] providing opportunities to grow as a person."

It's making this anything but a waste of time.

If you'd like to learn more about the esports division of Special Olympics Texas, you can click here.

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