Women’s esports league breaks gender boundaries


Photo courtesy of Mike Johnson

(From left) Audrey Baker, Briana Puli, team captain Adeline McCloskey, Binnie Da Rocha, Sara Fuertes and Kat Butsko comprise the school’s first Victoria Valorant League esports team, one of only six in the state.

Online gaming poses serious threats to teenagers worldwide, with a reputation for cyberbullying and discrimination. Players are able to hide their face behind a monitor while using their gaming microphone to spread hateful words towards teammates and opponents.

In response to this ongoing issue of harassment during gaming, the Victoria Valorant League was created. The Victoria Valorant League offers a chance for women, transgender and non-binary people to compete in their separate league and ensure tht they feel comfortable doing the sport they love. As they use their microphones to communicate with people who share a similar interest, they are able to eliminate the derogatory language being shared.

West Essex is one of seven schools in the area to introduce their very own Victoria Valorant League in 2023. Esports coach Mike Johnson, said he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to expand the program and get more students involved in gaming.

“Because this is an area where we’re all able to play without having to worry about that sort of thing, this league is now showcasing the things that are possible in order to give that space and freedom to exist,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a 100 percent increase in participation from girls playing esports even though it’s typically viewed as a male dominated hobby and sport.”

Starting this league at West Essex was never a struggle because of the dominant female participation throughout the last few years, Johnson said. The growth of women in esports serves as a symbol that women can be a part of any sport, no matter if it is seen as a man’s sport.

Senior captain of the team, Adeline McCloskey, has played a critical role in engaging students in the program and organizing games and events throughout the season. Not only did she guide the team to grow and thrive, but she also was named the of 1st Team All-State for the Victoria Valorant League. This accomplishment was just one small piece of the puzzle that will make her legacy at West Essex unforgettable.

“To be honest, our collaboration was our greatest strength,” McCloskey said. “We were always able to keep our mentality up through joking around or genuine kindness, and this strong bond contributed to our success and just a great overall experience. We became not only teammates but friends during the season. I am so glad I got to be a part of this experience and grow closer to these great people.”

The team was able to become close and also be serious and focused come gametime. The collaboration allowed for great success among the team, members said.

“We were all very receptive to each other’s ideas and just wanted to have a good time,” McCloskey said. “It created a comfortable and fun environment, as well as a way to take some stress out of this extremely competitive game.”

This year was the true beginning for this special and talented team. The Victoria Valorant team hopes to continue to grow their league as this season comes to a close. Johnson and his team remain delighted and optimistic about the program they were able to establish.