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Team ‘smashes’ its way to victory for first state esports title

Kelloggsville — Seniors Alberto Estrada and brothers Kenny and Kevin Nguyen sat in the front of a classroom and watched as two fellow students recently played Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.  

They were assessing their peers’ skills, how best they might be able to help them, and which one of Kelloggsville High’s three Super Smash Bros. teams they would join as part of the school’s esports program.

“You have to be quick thinking,” said Alberto, never taking his eyes off the screen. “You’ve got to know the characters, you have to know what they can do and you have to know how to react fast.”

In fewer than five minutes the game was over, and the three discussed who should be placed on which team — which will be orange, gray or white,  since the threesome already make up the top team, blue.

Alberto, Kenny and Kevin not only have an immense knowledge about the game — the three admit that they have spent thousands of hours studying — they are currently the reigning Michigan High School Esports Federation Super Smash Bros. champions. 

“The school had an assembly (to honor them), and we were recognized by the school board,” Alberto said. “The school is currently working to make room in the trophy case for the award.”

Seniors Alberto Estrada, left, and Kenny Nguyen, right, practice as senior Kevin Nguyen watches

Another Avenue for Students to Connect

The esports program is fairly new at Kelloggsville, having launched in Fall 2022. 

“Principal Nick Patin was looking to start the program, and he reached out to me because he knew I play video games,” said high-school teacher Aline Le, who, along with Madison Kurtz, are the esports coaches. 

One reason for launching the program was that it provides the opportunity for students like Alberto, Kenny and Kevin, who had not previously participated in school sports, to be part of a team, Kurtz said.

“We had a friend who wanted to play, so we came with him to check it out,” Kevin recalled. 

To improve, students have to develop soft skills in communicating and collaborating with teammates, being creative in their play and demonstrating critical thinking as they assess the game while playing, said Kurtz, who has added a leadership role for top players to help select the other teams and work with them to build skills.

As in track and field, where athletes select whether to participate in running, jumping or throwing, esports teams decide which video game they will focus on for competitions. The games played for each season are chosen by MiHSEF, Le said.

Focused on Their First Victory

In the MiHSEF, there were three game options offered in the fall: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Rocket League and Valorant. Kelloggsville’s esports program has teams that compete in all three.

Last year, the Kelloggsville esport teams only participated in the Fall 2022 season, Kurtz said. The esports teams all qualified for the state competition and did well, but were knocked out before the final competition, she said. 

For Smash Bros., teams divided up the number of stocks, or lives, among the members. For example, if there are 12 stocks and three players, each player has four stocks. As in a relay race, a player plays until he/she has used up all of his stocks, then passes the controls to the next teammate. The goal is to get the highest score possible while forcing the opposing team to use up their stocks.

“I felt like the game before the final was the hardest,” Alberto said.

Kurtz said the team’s lineup gave them a nice setup into the finals, not losing a single game.

“I was confident that we were going to win from the start,” Alberto said. “We had improved, and we had gotten faster.”

Alberto, Kenny and Kevin hope to defend their state title this spring.

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
Career makers at work
Students discover ‘I can do this’ with expanded AP curriculum

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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