Character is defined as “the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves; a set of qualities that are shared by many people in a group; a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things”. In the sports world there have been countless research studies and articles that state it is hard to measure character development in sports. However, whenever you ask a sport participant what they learned or developed by participating in sports, often one of the first responses is character. Character is the core of someone, their ability to endure, to be patient, to fight, to strive not just survive.
The E-Sports Program is one where character is developed. Character cannot be measured but it can be seen, fostered, and matured. E-Soccer stands out from other youth sport programs as it promotes inclusion, embraces differences, and encourages each participant to celebrate weaknesses rather than feeling ashamed. These qualities make E-Soccer one of the most unique youth sport programs in the Bay Area.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to coach at E-Soccer since I was in middle school and I just recently graduated college. E-Soccer is a place where typical and special needs kids participate for years, not just one single season. It is a place of inclusion, it is a place of joy, a place where comebacks are celebrated and setbacks are never definite. Youth sports today can be structured and set up for the benefits of the parents rather than the kids. Commonly known as the reverse dependency trap, parents ride on the success of their children’s accomplishments instead of encouraging the child and emphasizing participation. At E-Soccer the aspects of structure, wins and losses, and heavy competition are knocked out the window. There is no trace of them. Participation, inclusion, and community are celebrated. Through this character is developed in both typical and special needs kids. (Read 5 Levels of Inclusion)
Whenever a game or scrimmage is played at E-Soccer there is no score kept. One participant who later became a coach always stated “No scoreboard!” whenever we played games. There is not an emphasis on winning or being the best but rather the whole group growing as a whole. One person’s success is the success of the group. The qualities E-Soccer cherished are ones that are instilled in the participants and coaches. Another participant frequently stated “It’s not over until it’s over”. This is heavily linked to character development. As one special needs child stated this over and over again it showed all the participants that difficulty does not mean defeat. Each time there was adversity or trouble it gave an opportunity to overcome, to fight, and to learn.
Character is something that needs to be developed and nurtured. It cannot happen overnight but it is matured through trying circumstances. At E-Soccer these can be seen as difficulty socializing, limited motor skills that make kicking the ball seem impossible, sound overload with multiple groups going on at one time, or unable to communicate verbally. However, each week children return to the field not reminded of the difficulties but hopeful of the victories ahead. Character is coming back every week despite fears, anxieties, physical challenges, emotional meltdowns, or hard times.
As a volunteer coach my character developed by enduring alongside, persevering with, and learning from those kids with special needs I was lucky enough to coach. Since high school I have faced various physical and emotional health challenges that I often do not know how I am going to overcome. A big factor in my own perseverance developing is seeing the kids I work with every week overcome so much more than anything I have ever faced. (Read Why your school should have a Peer-To-Peer Program)
Character can’t be measured scientifically but it can be seen with the heart to overcome, the heart to never quit, and the heart to believe in a better day. Whether you’re a coach, participant, or parent it is clear the character growth E-Sports promote.