Game on! Esports program thriving at Belleville HS

Varsity program will send six to national championships in Orlando, Fla., in June

The Belleville High School esports team gathers on the football field at Belleville High School. Kneeling, from left, are captain Angel Figueroa, Derwin De Pena, Ben Aguirre Jr., Jedediah Monroe, Scott Lopez, Dominick Cappelletti and Andrea Chicaiza Orellana. Standing, from left, are head coach Nick Guillermain, Asif Khan, Elijah Santiago, Michael Perez, Ethan Lopez, captain Avinash Hosein, Juan Orosco, Gideon Rodriguez, and coaches Alex Luna and Biagio Giugno. Not pictured is Felix-Andrew Barragan.

BELLEVILLE, NJ — In high schools and colleges, esports has become vastly popular of late.

Belleville High School started an esports program just a few years ago, and, already, it has produced tremendous success.

In fact, six members of the Belleville esports program have qualified for the 2022 Walt Disney World Electronic Gaming Federation High School National Championship, which will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. from June 16 to 19.

So what is esports? Essentially, it’s competitive video gaming, in which players compete against one another either as individuals or on teams.

Nick Guillermain is the Belleville esports head coach. A special education/science teacher who has been at Belleville for the past four years, Guillermain said his goal as a coach is to impart as much knowledge as he can, both about video-game playing and about being on a team. A former athlete, Guillerman, Class of 2000 at Pompton Lakes High School, lettered in multiple varsity sports in high school.

The students who qualified for the nationals are Angel Figueroa, Asif Khan and Juan Orosco, who qualified as a team for the Rocket League; and Felix-Andrew Barragan, Avinash Hosein and Elijah Santiago, who all qualified for Super Smash Brothers Ultimate.

Esports gives high school students who don’t play in a physical sport or in the marching band, or who aren’t involved in other clubs, a chance to be part of a competitive club or sport, and to get a taste of competition.

Guillermain is looking forward to his players getting the opportunity to compete at nationals.

“I’m excited,” he said in a phone interview with the Belleville Post. “I’m excited for the opportunity that these kids get, kids that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to earn a varsity letter. This gives them an opportunity to bring a ‘W’ for their town, for their friends, for their school. I am really happy for them. I want to continue to make the right decisions and do what’s best for them, for the school and the town.”

Belleville HIgh School esports was a club for the past two years. With COVID-19, participation was virtual. This year, the program became a varsity sport. 

There are several leagues in the state with two seasons, one in the fall and the other in the winter/spring. The matches are streamed via Twitch, the livestreaming service that focuses on video games, including broadcasts of esports competitions. 

Bloomfield and Montclair are among other high schools that have esports programs.

At nationals, Guillermain has high hopes for Barragan, who went undefeated throughout the two seasons and in the playoffs.

Figueroa is looking forward to participating in the nationals.

“I’m really excited to be going to the national championships with my Rocket League team, as well as the Super Smash Brothers players,” he said. “We all put in a lot of effort into qualifying for the championships, and they all definitely deserve their spot in the tournament.

“As mentioned before by our coach, we were a club for about a year then became a varsity sport last summer. Our group was very small, but we all helped our coach as a team build our program from the ground up. All of us put in a tremendous amount of work to grow our team. As a result, we managed to make it to nationals, and we will give it our all in June.”

To offset the cost of the trip to nationals, Belleville received some money from its league. In addition, the team held several fundraisers, but they are hoping to raise more money. To make a donation for Belleville’s trip to the nationals, contact Guillermain at [email protected].

Photo Courtesy of Nick Guillermain