The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.
Additionally, a donation will be made to an organization or community project on behalf of each week’s hero. This week we will be donating to the E-Sports nonprofit.
20 years ago, two friends were chatting in a car when a simple conversation sparked a great idea. A father of two special needs sons and a soccer player began sharing their ideas for an inclusive sports program. The two friends drew inspiration from their experiences and passions, and soon after formed E-Sports.
E-Sports (which has the dual meaning of “Exceptional” and “Educational”), prioritizes inclusion for all athletes. The program provides a one-of-a-kind atmosphere where young athletes with special needs can compete and make friends with typical kids their age.
Greg Bodzioch, director of E-Sports, wanted to establish a place where special needs kids and typical kids could build relationships, but also learn valuable skills and build character.
“We knew we were helping special needs kids, but this is amazing character education for typical kids too,” says Greg.
The program started in a Foster City park with only a handful of people to play soccer. 20 years later, E-Sports has transformed into a multidimensional sports program that now spans from Bay Area cities to across the globe. E-Sports now has 12 soccer programs in the Bay Area, and expanded to include more sports such as basketball, dance, karate and fitness.
Inclusive sport has been a valuable tool in education for kids with special needs. Through E-Sports, these kids are learning physical skills like hand-eye-foot coordination, and character building skills like empathy, compassion and leadership.
Additionally, E-Sports has been an avenue for creating socialization and building friendships. Through this, children with special needs have been participating in recreation that also develops character traits like patience, perseverance, courage and commitment.
In hopes to create a sense of community and routine, the E-Sports programming runs a majority of the year. “For kids with special needs, they thrive on routine,” says Greg.
Since COVID-19 has shut down many social gatherings and sports programs, the E-Sports team has been working hard to maintain this sense of routine and community by transitioning to social media platforms.
“We can do things online that make the kids still feel connected to one another,” says Greg.
Greg says the E-Sports team has developed a “completely new way to do soccer.” Weekly practices and games have been replaced with Facebook/Instagram Live video sessions. The E-Sports team rotates between video hosts to facilitate drills, conduct activities, tell stories and engage with the athletes and their families while apart.
They have also created resources and tools on their website for the athletes and their families to stay engaged in their sports community at this time. “We can make them see we still care about them… and make weekly contact,” he says.
From the very first practice until now, the program has been run entirely on a volunteer basis. Many volunteers range from parents and coaches to college students and high schoolers.
For many athletes, families and volunteers, E-Sports has been able to create positive impact and change lives. Over the years, parents have expressed their gratitude for the way E-Sports volunteers care so deeply about each individual player and their growth.
To learn more about E-Sports or get involved, visit their website, https://e-sports.org/.