What is esports?

Esports is the world of organized, competitive video games played between individuals or teams. Esports is short for electronic sports. It is currently the fastest growing industry in the world. When you used in education, scholastic esports has a variety of benefits for students.

What is Garden State Esports?

Garden State Esports (GSE), is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2019 by teachers in New Jersey who believe esports can be a beneficial addition to students’ educational experience in the same way as traditional sports are, and then some.


Our mission is to is to create high-quality, student-centered experiences through scholastic esports by providing the learning, competition, and the community needed for ALL students to use esports as a platform to grow.

Who can join Garden State Esports?

GSE is proud to serve New Jersey elementary, middle, and high schools designated as public, charter, college-preparatory, home school, and virtual, VOTECH, and other similat institutions recognized by the NJ Department of Education.


We are also open to admitting community-based organizations on a case-by-case basis.


Examples of community-based organizations may include but are not limited to:

  • Public libraries
  • Youth development programs (Girl Scouts, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H, etc.)
  • Faith-based organizations (churches, synagogues, etc.)
  • STEM rich institutions (museums, planetariums, etc.)
  • Township or recreational teams


If your community-based organization serves students in New Jerssey and you’re interested in bringing esports to your kids, submit a membership application to get started!

How can we join Garden State Esports?

Garden State Esports is free to join! If you’re interested in joining, fill out a membership application to get the process started!

What equipment do we need and how do we find the funding to get it?



Almost all the games GSE plays are free-to-play and feature cross-play capability, so a variety of devices can be used to participate. Here is what we recommend:


Desktops and laptops – Ideally, programs will want highend, Windows-based computers with a dedicated graphics card. You can get started with as littel as 3 PCs, but we recommend at least 7 for the best exprience.


Check existing PCs – Schools may already have the computers they need to participate. Most computers built in the last 5 years should
be able to work for esports. The games GSE offers are playable on low to mid-end computers so check or consider upgrading existing equipment!


Recommended Specs


Good: i5 or Ryzen 3 CPU, 8mb RAM, 1050 Ti graphics card, 22in 720p 60hz monitor. Price: < $1000

Better: i7 or Ryzen 5 CPU. 16mb RAM, 1660 Ti graphics card, 24in 1080p 120hz monitor. Price: ~$1750

Best: i9 or Ryzen 9 CPU, 32mb RAM, 2060 Super graphics card, 27in 1440p 144hz monitor. Price: ~$2250


Note: While ‘gaming’ chairs, desks, and peripherals are nice, they are in no way a necessary expense. Save the money, most students will likely want to use their own controller, keyboard & mouse, and headset.


Bring Your Own Device – Many GSE teams have used a Bring Your Own Device initiatives to get started. Club Advisors or students bring their own PCs or consoles to get in the game.


Chromebooks and Switches – Schools on a budget may want to consider getting a Nintendo Switch. At $330 per Switch, teams will be
able to participate in 8 out of 10 GSE competitions with a Switch – more than any other console. Chromebooks aren’t made for esports, but could be used as a last resort in conjunction with a cloud gaming service like GeForce Now.


GSE has partnered with SHI to get you the most competive quotes around for any devices, peripherals, and consoles you need.




An esports club should be seen as an investement in a school or commuinty organzaitons STEM program. The same devices that are used by students during for STEM learning during the day can also be used after school for the esports team. That is why most schools find funding in their STEM budget.


While there is very little grant funding avaliable for scholastic esports, there are plenty of grants available for STEM, Career & Technical Education (CTE), and Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) programs – all of which are part of a robust scholastic esports program. GSE teams have been funded using Title I, II, & IV, ESSER, and Perkins grants as well as state-level and local foundation grants.


PTA, local business, and Booster clubs support. As well as community or online fund raisers like Donors Choose, sponsorships from local or national businesses, and even Twitch Prime subs to get what they need to run a successful program!


When you join GSE, we will provide our funding package which contains all the possibile avenues you can take to find funding as well as example grants that have been successfuly used by other GSE programs.

I'm not a gamer and I don't know anything about coaching an esports team, can GSE help?

Of course! GSE has everything you will need to run a successful esports club, even if you’re not a gamer and have never coached before. We have guides, webinars, and a wonderful Discord community with GSE staff and 150+ other club advisors from around the state ready, willing, and able to answer any questions you may have and provide any help you need. We’ve got your back!


If you really want to immerse yourself in the world of esports, GSE has teamed up with Stockton University to provide a coaching certification course. You can learn more about the GSE/Stockton certificantion course here.

How does the Department of Education and School Boards Association feel about esports?

You can find webinars we have done with the NJ DoE and NJSBA about the value of scholastic esports here and here. We are proud to have the support of the Department of Education and New Jersey School Boards Assocaiton as we help schools use esports as a platform to empower all students become college and career ready.

How does the NJSIAA feel about esports?

As far as the NJSIAA is concerned, video game sports are not going to be sanctioned anytime soon.


“NJSIAA is aware that some member schools have started esports clubs, but at this time has had no conversations to consider sanctioning the activity as an NJSIAA sport,” spokesman Michael Cherenson said.


Garden State Esports is happy to step up and be the governing body for scholastic esports in New Jersey because we have seen the value and better learning outcomes esports can have for our kids.

What is the difference between GSE and PlayVS or other for-profit organizations?

GSE isn’t our job, it’s our passion. Everyone at GSE is a full-time NJ educator. Together we have 200+ years combined teaching experience. We know your schools, we know your kids, and we know how to help make esports meet the learning goals of your school district. That’s why GSE has more member schools than PlayVS and all the other for-profits doing business in NJ.


During the 2021-2022 school year alone, schools saved over $210,000 in for-profit league dues by joining Garden State Esports because our bottomline will always be to our kids, not to share holders. Through the generoisty of our partners, GSE has raised enough money to remain free for everyone for a long time to come.

Who will we play in GSE?

One of the things that makes GSE unique is our commitment to local competiton. With GSE you will play against local schools using a familiar schedule. That’s because we group all GSE teams into their traditional athletic conferences to make sure you’re playing against schools you know! Additionally, our three season schedule and 3:30 start times follow the athletic schedule that schools and students are used to.

Can GSE esports teams earn varsity letters?

Yes! In 2017, NJ Senate Bill S2398 was passed in an effort to extend opportunities to earn varsity letters to high school students who participate in competitive activities other than athletics.


The bill states “A school district that includes any of the grades 9 through 12 shall adopt a policy to provide that a student enrolled in those grades who participates in any school-sponsored, interscholastic extracurricular activity that includes competitions in which the student competes against students enrolled in schools outside of the district may be eligible to earn a varsity letter awarded by the district.”


Currently, each board of education may decide the sports and activities for which a student may be eligible to receive a varsity letter. Like the students in other clubs and activities who have benefitted from this bill, student-athletes that are members of a scholastic esports team should also receive the many benefits from lettering in esports.


With almost 200 universities and colleges offering over $16 million in esports scholarships, providing a varsity esports program will give students the opportunity to engage in important skills for their college and career success while also creating a more inclusive, equitable culture on campus where it may not have existed before.


Thus, Garden State Esports recommends that participating school districts that include any of the grades 9 through 12 adopt a policy of varsity letter eligibility for these student-athletes.


Garden State Esports recommends the minimum following criteria for a district’s varsity letter policy:


Player is in good academic standing with their school
Player is in good standing with their team
Player has participated in at least 75% of the season’s varsity esports matches


**Athletes who do not achieve the guidelines established above, but make contributions to the team, may be awarded varsity letters at the discretion of the coaching staff.


By offering a cohesive varsity esports program for all New Jersey students, we give them the best chance to follow their passion for gaming into the many opportunities that can be found at the collegiate level and beyond.

What prizes can we win?

Garden State Esports does not believe in giving prize money for winning tournaments. 


If budget allows, Garden State Esports may give a banner, medals, trophies, championship belt, plaques, or similar prize to a winning school/org and/or players on the Active Roster. If budget allows, similar prizing may be given to substitutes as well.


Garden State Esports does not believe in giving swag or equipment for winning tournaments, though may give swag or equipment to all members of an Active Roster who compete in a Championship Season and/or make a Championship Season playoff. If budget or sponsors allow, similar prizing may be given to substitutes as well.


Garden State Esports believes in providing experiences as prizes. Often teams who win a tournament, state championship, and/or Tournament of Champions will be given the opportunity to engage in a unique experience. This may be, but is not limited to:


  • All-star games, tournaments, and show matches, either online or in-person, organized by colleges or professional esports organizations
  • Participation in summer camps or similar extended experiences, either online or in-person, organized by colleges or professional esports organizations 
  • Ask Me Anything (AMAs) or similar one-on-one experiences with pro players or industry professionals
  • Professional coaching provided by pro players
  • Earning a professional coach for their school or community organization for the following season
  • In-game currency, skins, or other assets provided by game developers

Does GSE have a social and emotional learning curriculum?

Yes, the award winning Esports Personal and Performance Improvement Curriculum (EPPIC) developed by Dr. Matt Strobel and the GSE team integrates SEL lessons into esports practice. EPPIC was created based on feedback from esports coaches and has been designed to allow for anyone, regardless of their training or background, to be able to teach high quality SEL lessons. It incorporates SEL best practices, sports psychology, and wellness into the esports practice regimen. Students participate in lessons and activities that align with the social and emotional competencies developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Requirements for the administration of the curriculum have been kept minimal in order to reduce costs and responsibilities for organizations looking to use the program.


EPPIC is a five unit program, with each unit consisting of multiple modules and each module consisting of multiple lessons. Lessons are designed to be administered at the start of each practice, typically when the team is working on turning on devices and logging in, and can last from 5-15 minutes. Lessons are designed to be an active experience and do not rely on didactic instruction. Although there is a set scope and sequence of lessons, they can also be delivered with a modular approach in order to address any pressing concern that may arise for a team. As part of the program, each team member will receive an digital journal in which they will record notes from each lesson and complete assignments between lessons. Check out EPPIC here!

Does GSE have a career and technical education curriculum?

Yes, the GSE team has created the Career Oriented Disciplines in Esports Curriulum (CODEC). CODEC can help schools and community organizations integrate a hands-on Career and Technical Education (CTE) experience into their esports program. The curricullum is aligned to the 16 Career Clusters and New Jersey’s 21st Century Life and Careers standards. What makes CODEC unique is that students are empowered to take on the real the jobs that meets the needs of their scholastic esports team in the same capacity that a professional working for an esports organization would. CODEC will help esports clubs build the team behind the team educat students on the college career pathways avalible to them in these key areas seen in these areas:


What are CODEC Contests?

CODEC Contests are GSE’s game, community, and industry-based competitions that directly contribute to every student being college and career ready when they graduate from high school. Every season, students can compete to become CODEC Contest winners in a wide variety of events while learning new skills and gaining hands-on experience with some of the world’s most in-demand STEAM jobs in the esports ecosystem.


Whether it is learning about civil engineering through Cities: Skylines, the agricultural sciences through Farmcraft, or best practices through industry-based competitions around video editing, graphic design, and production – every club will want to enter CODEC Contests to help kids make the connection between their passion for gaming and the different career pathways available to them!


CODEC contests are open to any student that is a member of their school or organization’s esports club. Each CODEC contest has its own time frame, eligibility requirements, rules and regulations, and prizes. Be sure to read each contest’s information carefully before allowing participants to enter. You can see all the CODEC contest catergories here.

Are there jobs in esports?

In 2019, Esports became the newest billion-dollar industry and is currently the fastest growing industry in the world. The ecosystem that has developed around esports has sprawled out to include hundreds of professions, mostly in STEM. Scholastic esports, when coupled with a meaingful Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, can be used to provide students with hands on experience in these in-demand fields and show them the college and career pathways they can follow to turn thier pass for gaming into a lucrative career. 

Do violent video games make students more violent?

There is no evidence that playing video games in general or first person shooter games in particular has any impact on gun violence or violence of any other kind. Studies around the world (see herehere and here) have found that there isn’t a link between video games and violence. In fact, one study found that new popular game releases led to drops in crime rates for a while after (see here).


Instead, consider the benefits of social activities, communication skills, teamwork and strategic thinking, thinking quickly under pressure, responding to stress and frustration appropriately. Students participate in extracurriculars to explore their interests, find their community, and develop positive relationships. They’re also more likely to pass classes and attend school if they have a reason to do so, not become violent.

Are there really benefits in having a scholastic esports team?

Watch this video from NASEF, our parent orginization, to see the heartfelt joy these parents are experiencing as a scholastic esports club provides a positive growth environment for their son. “It does teach cognitive skills, but most importantly I see a difference in his overall behavior. His grades have improved significantly since last year.


Why should educators embrace esports?

You might be thinking, it seems a little contradictory to form esports clubs on school campuses… After all, aren’t kids supposed to stay away from video games? You’d be shocked to find out the incredible benefits we’ve seen by combining the worlds of esports and education, including:


Are video games good for a developing brain?

Yes! Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, explains her findings in an interview below.


What do you do during an esports club meeting? Is it only playing games?

Garden State Esports club model puts the students first, using the esports ecosystem as a model to go beyond just playing games. Through the club, students will receive the tools needed to use their interest in gaming as a way to improve on critical real world skills, improve social emotional learning, and gain experience in career and technical education!


How does GSE use esports as a learning platform?

With the support of NASEF and our strategic partners, Garden State Esports has developed a research-based method to incorporate significant educational elements into our esports clubs while maintaining an authentic gamers’ experience.


  • Professionals lead career-focused workshops incorporating engineering, technology, and entrepreneurship principles.
  • Students are mentored to build crucial 21st century skills in communication, collaboration, and teamwork.
  • A Social Emotional Learning curriculum that helps students develop positive mental and physical health habits (especially around gaming).
  • Career and Technical Education model that provides students with hands-on experience in the most in-demand professions.
  • A English Language Arts curriculum that teaches timeless reading and writing skills with next-generation esports at its core, with STEM principles and elements of Career Technical Education woven throughout.
  • Near-peer coaches guide students to develop social-emotional skills and build a positive gaming culture, as well as improve their gameplay.

What is the relationship between Garden State Esports and the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF)

Garden State Esports is the The North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) Affiliate for the state of New Jersey.


A NASEF Affiliate is a nonprofit organization that serves a specific area and fulfills NASEF’s mission locally or regionally. They want to engage in NASEF and non-NASEF programs and activities with students and clubs throughout their region. Each affiliate is independent and responsible for its own staffing, budgeting, fundraising, and operations.


Affiliates are formed by an organization who wants to support esports and learning for students in their communities. Having identified regional needs and resources, they determined that NASEF programs, curricula, and events would benefit their areas.


The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) Affiliate Program is designed to:


  • Create a framework to optimize NASEF’s support for a more regional and/or centralized geographic grouping of NASEF Clubs where such a grouping is interested in greater autonomy than just engaging in NASEF sponsored or initiated activities.
  • Support grassroots efforts in the scholastic esports community across North America;
  • Create regional “umbrella” organizations that strengthen relationships among educators, school and local universities and colleges, parents, students, and business;
  • Allow for and encourage more in-depth, customized esports and learning opportunities for students enrolled in middle and high schools across North America; and
  • Encourage collaboration and use of strengths of each organization to advance learning and esports across North America.


We could not be more proud to be part of the NASEF family!

Are GSE clubs safe spaces for everyone?

Part of the Garden State Esports mission is to ensure ALL gaming spaces are safe spaces for everyone. We are committed to growing and promoting diverse communities through GSE competitions, curriculum, and experiences. We have partnered with the AnyKey Foundation as well as developed a Social and Emotinal Learning Curriculum and related resources to help GSE Club Advisors create safe, inclusive spaces for all GSE participants.