In early 2000, my friend Russ Ewell and I were driving together somewhere one day and began to talk about his two boys, their special needs, and getting involved in sports.
Russ knew my passion for soccer and how I had grown up all my life playing competitive soccer. He mentioned that he had read how soccer was considered a great sport for kids with special needs due to their greater ease learning eye to foot coordination in their development before eye to hand coordination.
Russ shared with me his struggle of trying to navigate how to get his boys with their challenges involved in team sports – not only to learn the athletic skills, but also to enjoy the social and “bonding” aspect of being on a team with friends.
We both recounted warmly our own experiences of growing up playing competitive sports (basketball for him and soccer for me). The piece that stood out strongest for each of us was the friendships that we both remember developing through those times – friendships and experiences we will never forget that shaped who we were becoming in those formative years. I specifically remember Russ talking about how cool it would be for his boys to learn a sport and build lasting friendships with not only other special needs kids but also typical peers.
At the time this was fairly unheard of. Sports programs for kids with special needs like Special Olympics did not include typical kids. “Inclusive” sports programs where typical and special needs kids participated alongside each other were only beginning to be talked about in theory. Little did we know, our discussion that day would birth the grassroots beginnings of the revolutionary inclusive sports program, E-Soccer.
Later that month we would gather at a local elementary school field – Russ and his boys, myself and a few other soccer player/coaches along with a couple other families of typical and special needs kids. E-Soccer was born. Far more than a soccer practice, lasting friendships began to develop. Inclusion was happening amongst kids with special needs and their typical peers. The vision of what would come was just beginning.
As you may imagine, I was so excited to help for many reasons. For one, my friendship with Russ and his family attached me to his boys – I felt honored and special to be part of this opportunity for them. I was grateful that my love for and abilities with soccer could be used to help my friend’s boys develop. Soccer for me had always been about pursuing my own pleasure and glory – now I could use my skills and passion for the game to help someone else. I wanted to pass it on – that was exciting.
So why should you volunteer?
The following are 6 compelling reasons:
- BUILD character – serving as a volunteer coach or helper in E-Sports teaches you empathy, compassion, and teamwork.
- PASS ON your love for sport – if you really enjoy soccer, have some real skills, or just love playing sports, do something you enjoy while passing it on and helping others
- LEARN the fundamentals of soccer while helping others – if you’re a beginner to soccer but want to learn yourself, learn along with the kids as you assist them. The best coaches always keep learning and stretching themselves.
- EARN community service credit – all our teenage volunteers earn community service hours toward their high school requirements while doing something fun, active, and deeply rewarding.
- MAKE a difference – E-Sports coaches are heroes to the kids. Give parents hope, give kids the skills and confidence to grow, and give yourself the greatest joy of seeing yourself make a real difference in these kids’ lives.
- DEVELOP leadership skills – whether you are mentoring just one child with special needs or leading a small group, E-Sports provides multiple capacities to develop your leadership.