By 2016, E-Sports had grown from a small group of kids and parents at a local park, to a full-fledged operation.
With over a dozen sessions taking place around the Bay Area, we were lucky enough to have a large and passionate volunteer base providing fun inclusive experiences for hundreds of kids every week. Though the activities were different from one location to the next, the heart of what we dreamed of doing remained intact, which was to provide a place where typical and special needs could build relationships, learn from each other, and allow parents to do likewise.
Yet there was room for improvement. E-Karate, our first program to launch after E-Soccer got the ball rolling (rimshot), was well received from jump; it proved to be quite effective at helping kids make friends and develop in key areas such as hand-eye coordination. However, we learned over the years that not as many people were able to benefit from the sport as we’d have liked.
Brian Nitta made this observation early in 2016. As someone with a background in judo, he saw the value in martial arts as it pertained to helping kids develop essential abilities. But some of the kids he worked with who had special needs were unable to perform some of the tasks required in the dojo.
We were having a lot of fun at E-Karate, and the drills and games were helping a lot of kids physically and socially. But there were some who weren’t able to experience everything the program had to offer because of their various physical limitations. So I started brainstorming some ways that they could get involved.Brian Nitta, E-Fitness Director
When Brian moved to a different part of the Bay Area, he was no longer able to attend the E-Karate location he was frequenting. After a conversation with a friend about the strong need for physical activity for people with Down Syndrome, he started drawing up a list of exercises that he had learned over his years of experience and training that could be performed at any skill level. From there, he started reaching out to some friends who would want to participate in his newly formulated pilot program.
I decided to take a few kids who could benefit from some guidance through a few structured, light exercises. I knew that there were some kids from E-Soccer who were looking for something new, including teenagers and young adults who still wanted to participate in an E-Sports program.Brian Nitta, E-Fitness Director
Brian, armed with some yoga mats and a collection of about 50 exercises, met at the Sunnyvale E-Soccer location with his newly formed small team. He ran them through several basic stations consisting of drills, stretches, and other flexibility exercises. He adapted the activities to each kids’ needs, allowing each of them to have a uniquely fun and helpful experience.
A uniquely adaptable program
Today, E-Fitness meets regularly at the Sunnyvale location, and regularly sees both typical and special needs kids enjoy the social experience of performing new exercises every week. Part of the fun comes from not knowing what to expect from week to week.
With such a broad selection of activities to pull from, it’s not uncommon for an E-Fitness session to have kids of all abilities performing everything from football drills to yoga poses. Since no person is the same, so neither are the routines in which E-Fitness employs. Kids who struggle with monotony or repetitiveness are finding it exciting and liberating to have a program that keeps them engaged, while they’re able to bond with kids of other abilities in the process.
Ethan Yang is an E-Fitness coach and one of its strongest advocates. As a person with special needs himself and a former E-Soccer participant, he appreciates the impact the inclusive programs have had on his life personally, and is passionate about helping others share his experience.
I’ve learned from volunteering at E-Sports that more kids are open to physical activities than I originally thought. E-Sports kind of allows for more kids to feel included and I think that helps them want to participate more!Ethan Yang, E-Sports Participant
Sho Yamamoto was a running back for his high school at the time he was a volunteer for E-Fitness. As someone who was looking for an opportunity to volunteer in the community, E-Fitness proved to be a worthwhile experience for him personally.
Seeing the joy that it brings these kids to be able to participate in something at least once a week where they aren’t made to feel different has been the highlight of my time volunteering at E-Fitness. It’s also been a great lesson in leadership for me, as I’ve been able to help people work through unique challenges in creative ways.Sho Yamamoto, E-Fitness Coach
E-Fitness is an exciting addition to our group of programs in the E-Sports umbrella. We’re excited to see what comes next. If you’re interested in participating, sign up today or contact us if you have questions.
Have an idea for your own unique inclusive activity? Visit our Start an E-Program page to learn how you can make your inspiration a reality for your community.