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For Love of the Game

John Stark Regional High School Gamer’s Club Visits NEC’s Esports Arena.

Once a gamer, always a gamer. At least, that’s how the story goes for Tyrelle Appleton and Dr. Kevin Seeley. Appleton serves as the Esports Coach at New England College (NEC). Seeley—or Doc, as his students call him—doubles as a science teacher and Anime/Gamer’s Club Adviser at John Stark Regional High School (JSRHS) just up the road from NEC in Weare. The Gamer’s Club indulges students’ love of games of all types, from board games to roleplaying games and now Esports.

Doc describes himself as a lifetime video game player whose love affair began with Pong, one of the earliest computerized games. He has led a Boy Scout Crew that focused on video games, and he now advises gamers at JSRHS, currently the only high school in the state with an active esports club. His commitment to the club runs deep. He dedicates some of his free time (a rare commodity for teachers) and equipment purchased with his own money to invest in the next generation of gamers.

And he sees that investment as being worth every second and every penny. “Playing classic sports isn’t for every student, and I like the idea of offering alternative activities where students can form the same connections and learn communication and leadership skills like athletes do.”

For this reason, Doc felt it was important for his students to see a dedicated esports club in action. He and his students visited NEC’s Esports Arena February 19. “My students typically play from home, so it was awesome to have them in the same room with each other and NEC’s esports players. This opportunity enhanced communication among players and made them feel more like members of a team. They also saw that they can pursue esports in a more structured way in college.” In fact, several of Doc’s students say they plan to attend NEC and join the College’s esports team.

If they do, they will join Jessica Corbett, a JSRHS graduate who plays Overwatch at NEC while double majoring in psychology and theatre. As a commuter student, Corbett found that she was feeling a little left out of the college experience. “NEC’s esports team has provided me with that missing link to a full experience. I’ve played video games for as long as I can remember, and esports allows me to be part of something I love and get to know other students.”

Corbett adds that Doc’s leadership prepared her for the tone of NEC’s esports club. “Good sportsmanship and a positive attitude toward fellow gamers were hardcore requirements of the Gamer’s Club. I find that Coach Appleton expects much of the same from us in the Arena.”

“There’s a method to my madness,” Appleton laughs. “I strive to teach gamers how to play through if something doesn’t go their way, how to use both sides of their brains, and how to grow as a team.”

He demonstrated this methodology by leading the 30 students from both NEC and JSRHS in a few exercises. To build concentration, Appleton played distracting audio while students played chess. To build teamwork, he showed students how to praise and critique other students and tasked small groups with presenting skits after five minutes of preparation.

“For shy players like me,” Corbett states, “the team-building exercises definitely helped create a more welcoming environment.”

“The students from JSRHS held back a little at first,” Appleton explains, “but then they began to understand the point of the exercises and became more engaged.”

And Appleton knows well the value of such exercises to esports players. A nationally respected former esports competitor himself, he became the first-ever competitive Gears of War player in the country to formally partner with Major League Gaming and launched the first collegiate esports program in New England in 2017 before joining New England College.

NEC’s esports club got under way this January and is off to a strong start. Appleton has coached the team through five scrimmages against other colleges, and NEC has won four of those.

“It was really cool to host the gaming students from JSRHS, and I’m blown away that some of them already want to attend NEC.” Then his competitive side flickers in his eyes. “They come from the only high school esports club in the state, and NEC aims to be the best college club in the state. I’d be happy to have them.”

Because once a gamer, always a gamer.