What started with only three special needs children is now the only sports development program in the country that caters to the differently-abled. Since its inception in 2015, Exceptional Sports (E-Sports) has come a long way in providing a safe, aware, and inclusive community for children.
Over 2,000 children—diagnosed with ADHD, Down Syndrome, Autism, etc.—around Metro Manila have become part of E-Sports’ four year run. Their in-depth programs develop each kid’s physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Here, E-Sports observes a buddy system, or a strict one-to-one ratio between the child and volunteer-coach.
E-Sports currently integrates football and fitness in its sessions. Other sports programs in the works include basketball, swimming, cycling, dodgeball, triathlon, tennis, badminton, mixed martial arts, weightlifting, billiards, and gymnastics. “Our goal is to develop exceptional athletes for the Special Olympics, and earn a gold medal in the next 10 years,” says Paolo Enrile, E-Sports founder.
Paolo laments the prevalent stigma for those with special needs. Citing a 2014 census, he shares that over 3.2 million people are diagnosed with a mental health condition, and there are less than 200 licensed Developmental Pediatricians in the Philippines. “The need is huge but the community that caters to that need is small,” says Paolo.
Another challenge is the difficulty in finding empathetic coaches. “You can be as qualified as you are as a professional athlete, or have a license in coaching, but if you don’t have the patience and understanding to adapt to every child you’re partnered with, I don’t think you’re right for E-Sports,” Paolo explains.
Anna Chua, an E-Sports healthcare professional who also is a mother of two with special needs, voices the same sentiment. “Our goal for our children is they become comfortable in their environment. So it’s important to find the right people who would make connections with them. You don’t need a degree to make that connection. A big part of it is attitude,” says Anna.
This year, E-Sports becomes a part of the Exceptional Families Foundation. The establishment of a foundation, Paolo elaborates, is for them to gain more donors, partners, and scale on impact.
E-Sports is a social enterprise of BPI Sinag, which is under the bank’s foundation. As such, they guarantee that only meaningful, professional, and impactful projects will be implemented for the progression, development, and growth of exceptional kids.
Having been exposed to social entrepreneurship, Paolo makes sure that E-Sports conducts its programs professionally. “With everybody involved: our partners, the media, and the parents especially, we will continue to strive to reach the best for E-Sports. We believe that together, we can be exceptional,” Paolo concludes.