Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association Hires First Executive Director Amid Year of Rapid Growth
Samantha Bickel joins PIEA as new Executive Director as participation doubles
HARRISBURG, PA -- November 15, 2021 - The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) has named Samantha Bickel as its first executive director, positioning the association for continued expansion after a year of more than 100-percent growth in school and team participation.
Bickel joins the statewide esports association in just its second full year of operation. Since its inaugural competition in 2020, the PIEA has expanded its reach to 70 schools from 32, and now fields 68 teams compared with 33 in 2020 – an increase of 119 percent and 106 percent, respectively.
Nearly 400 Pennsylvania students currently participate in PIEA games.
“PIEA’s organic growth in such a short period of time shows just how much demand there is in Pennsylvania high schools for structured and regulated esports competitions against long-standing rivals,” said PIEA Chair Langdon Ramsburg. “Parents, teachers and administrators are starting to recognize that esports is a means by which to reach and engage students, particularly on STEAM topics. Given the growth to date and expected growth going forward, we recognize that it is time to start bringing in highly talented people with different skill sets and perspectives. Samantha is the perfect fit.”
Bickel comes to PIEA from Vanta Leagues, where she was a business operations specialist, offering guidance oversight and technical support to players, parents and coaches in esports leagues. She previously served as director of facilities at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and prior to that, as athletic operations coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania.
She holds a master’s degree in sport administration from Drexel University and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Widener University.
In her new role with PIEA, Bickel will oversee the management, administration, growth and membership of the organization. She will also lead the organization’s sponsorship opportunities and be the liaison to the PIEA Board of Directors. Her primary goal will be to expand regulated scholastic esports programs to more Pennsylvania schools.
"The honor to be the first executive director of the PIEA is astounding and inspirational,” Bickel said. “The esports industry can turn dreams into reality, and this position provides a fantastic opportunity to do what I value most. As the executive director, I plan to contribute to the growth of esports across the Commonwealth both from a student success and a school community perspective. I will strive to educate administrators, teachers, parents and communities about the benefits of regulated esports programs for students – both as a platform for gaining valuable skills in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math; and as a safe, inclusive and positive social outlet.”
The PIEA was established in 2019 as one of the first governing bodies focused solely on esports in the country. The association held the state’s first-ever scholastic esports state championship last spring. The fall PIEA tournament is occurring now, with the championships set to take place in-person at the Whitaker Center for Science and Arts in Harrisburg the weekend of Dec. 11-12.
The winning teams are presented with the PIEA trophy, scholarship funds and prizes totaling $5,000.
Samantha Bickel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Langdon Ramsberg: LRamsburg@mcneeslaw.com
About PA Interscholastic Esports Association
The PA Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) is one of the nation's first high school governing bodies solely focused on statewide esports programs and clubs. The nonprofit is a collaborative effort between McNees, Wallace and Nurick, a law firm with an Esports practice to advise the industry on legal matters; the Hollinger Family, which already has part ownership of a Formula One race team; and Estars, an esports tournament infrastructure company. The mission of PIEA is to be a Pennsylvania esports advocate and resource for regulatory oversight and competition guidelines for interscholastic esports.