Our Story

The E-Sports journey from the backyard to Oracle Arena

How it all began.

From its inception in 2000, the E-Sports journey has pioneered inclusion in sport and already developed a rich history over the past 20 years.

The Inception

It all began with two friends – a dad with two special needs sons and a soccer player – riding in a car discussing a novel idea: a program that would leave no kid behind.
The Inception

The Philosophy

Our original philosophy and vision stemmed from the desire to see typical kids and their peers with special needs playing a sport together alongside each other.
The Philosophy

The Timeline

From one small group of kids and coaches on a middle school field to hundreds of families around the globe, our first 20 years has already developed a rich history.
The Timeline

Part Two

The Philosophy:
5 foundational principles.

After the infamous car ride, we went to work crafting what would become the pillars of our inclusive programs.

A number of us can remember playing sports as young children while our parents watched from the sidelines.

It was a place where both we and our parents built lasting friendships.

This was the experience we wanted for every family with special needs – kids on the field making friends while mom and dad do the same with the other parents.

We began with a group of experienced soccer players as well as a few therapists (physical, occupational, and even speech).

This team allowed us to determine how best to advance the developmental progress of each child through E-Soccer.

While not every E-Soccer program has this capability, it improves the experience exponentially.

My own coaching experiences have made me a fan of how much a good coach can do to support parents and their families.

When we began, every soccer coach had to have advanced soccer experience as well as the capacity to teach. New coaches watched from the sidelines until they understood the culture and philosophy of inclusion.

After this, they were allowed come on the field to assist the coaches and, in time, become an official coach themselves. This meticulous care in the selection and development of coaches is one of the core principles necessary for E-Soccer success.

The mentoring process was one of our unexpected surprises. We originally selected typical children of the same age or older than our kids with special needs to serve as mentors.

In time, we focused on developing typical middle school age kids as the primary mentors. Younger typical children played alongside their special needs peers. The role of the middle school age mentors was to provide an older brother or sister type relationship.

This led to a number of leaps in progress for our kids with special needs who seemed to learn better when the could imitate the mentors. There were so many marvelous moments when I watched my own son learn how to kick by watching his middle school mentor.

One of the most important things to me was making our program personally beneficial to our typical kids. Volunteering to serve and help kids with special needs holds enormous benefit.

One of the most significant was the impressive development of empathy we watched our typical kids experience. Still we wanted more.

We decided to start personally coaching the typical kids in our program to become excellent soccer players. Our goals were to see them play for their high school teams and beyond. One of the highlights of our program was watching the early morning games between adults and teenagers before the other kids arrived.

If there is a “secret sauce” that makes E-Soccer a magnet for typical kids, it is the benefit to their own athletic progress. The result from our initial group of kids was that we saw a number of them play sports in high school. Most importantly, their influence as athletes allowed them to become life-long protectors, championing their special needs peers from E-Soccer.

Part Three

The Timeline:
How E-Sports has grown.

From one small group of kids and coaches on a middle school field to hundreds of families around the globe, our first 20 years has already developed a rich history.



E-Soccer launches

The first ever session of E-Sports takes place at a small park in Foster City, CA. A dozen people are present, and the foundation is laid for future inclusive programs.



E-Karate launches

The second E-Program to launch was E-Karate, spearheaded by a family of martial artists who wanted to use their skillsets to provide a similar inclusive experience in a different format.




E-International launches

While families and children with special needs face many challenges here in the United States, their plight is often much worse in the developing world. A dedicated couple brings the hope of inclusion to Bangalore, India, and paves the way for future international E-Programs.


Our first community coaches

Kings Academy high school invites E-Soccer to speak to students re volunteering for community service hours. The partnership begins a pipeline of high school and college students volunteering in their communities.


The Jefferson Award

Founder Russ Ewell is awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award in recognition of his positive impact on the youth of the Bay Area community.


Congressional Citation

Founder Russ Ewell receives a Congressional Citation from US Congressman Tom Lantos for the E-Soccer program.


SF Gate

“E-Soccer program lets special needs kids get in the game” – a feature in SF Gate helps get the word out about E-Sports in its early days.


US Sports Coaching partnership

E-Soccer begins what would become a long-term partnership with US Sports Coaching, spearheaded by Alex Saunders and E-Sports Director Greg Bodzioch. The newfound relationship marked the beginning of annual coaches training for E-Soccer volunteers.




Las Vegas E-Soccer launches

Las Vegas E-Soccer was the first E-Sports program outside of California in the United States. As with so many of our programs, Las Vegas E-Soccer was born from the vision of a small group of families and teachers who saw a need and wanted to serve the children in their community.


Pleasanton Weekly

The Robys, a family of E-Soccer volunteers/advocates, are named Couple of the Year in a profile by Pleasanton Weekly. 


E-Soccer Philippines

CNN Philippines covers E-Soccer after a successful and impactful launch in Manila.


E-Hoops launches at USF

After a successful pilot program in 2007, E-Hoops is officially launched at University of San Francisco (USF). It was the beginning not only a new program, but a new partnership with USF Men’s and Women’s Basketball.


San Jose Earthquakes partnership

Local Major League Soccer team the San Jose Earthquakes express interest in working with E-Soccer to use its resources to promote inclusion. The teams began working together to plan exciting experiences and opportunities for E-Soccer participants, and today the Quakes remain one of our strongest community partners.



Infosys Corporation

Infosys Corporation reaches out to E-Sports to sponsor an E-Soccer program for all their Bay Area employees of families with special needs.




E-Soccer Guam

One of the couples that were coaches involved in the Las Vegas E-Soccer launch moved to Guam, and decided they wanted to start a chapter of our inclusive program in the US territory. After a few training calls with the Bay Area team, E-Soccer Guam kicked off. 


E-Dance launches

After experiencing several life challenges and setbacks, an E-Soccer volunteer who happened to be a Zumba instructor launches an inclusive dance program in San Leandro. 



E-Fitness launches

An E-Karate coach, after seeing an opportunity to reach kids who were unable to participate in all the activities offered, decides to launch a fitness program that offers physical strengthening by way of an adaptable rotation of accessible exercises.



First E-Soccer Quakes Day

After years of planning with the San Jose Earthquakes, the vision was finally realized to hold a special E-Soccer event at the brand new Avaya stadium. The Quakes brought several of their Academy coaches and players to provide an exciting kickoff to what has become an annual event.


First “digital launch“: Dongguan, China

After meeting a family familiar with E-Sports in the Bay Area, a special needs teacher in China emails the E-Sports director about the desire to start a program in Dongguan. This leads to what would be the very first “digital launch” of an E-Soccer program through Facebook Live and web training.



Golden State Warriors

A new community partnership emerges after San Francisco E-Hoops volunteers make connections with members of the Golden State Warriors organization. After months of dialogue, the Warriors invite E-Hoops to scrimmage at halftime for their now annual Special Needs Family Appreciation Night.


MLS Works Community Service MVP

E-Sports Director Greg Bodzioch is nominated by the San Jose Earthquakes to represent E-Soccer as their official 2019 MLS Works Community Service MVP at the MLS All Star game in Orlando, FL.


“Start your own“ E-Programs take off

After years of E-Sports impacting communities around the world, passionate volunteers have begun to take their own ideas for inclusive activities and make them a reality. Volunteer led E-Programs begin to take shape, and the power of inclusion begins to unfold through activities such as the Game Social and E-Gaming.


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