Philadelphia’s youth sports coaches need support.
The volunteers who dedicate what little spare time they have to their teams are more than coaches — they’re schedulers, surrogate caregivers, chauffeurs, therapists and so much more. And their teams are often forced to play on fields that are too small, unkempt or unsafe — assuming they can find available field space at all.
“I get paid in high-fives and gum,” said Beulah Osueke aka Coach B., PILR
That’s why, last week, Fairmount Park Conservancy hosted the inaugural Youth Sports Ambassadors meeting, which brought together 20 coaches and other athletic leaders and advocates to discuss what they need to help their athletes, and to help themselves.
Fairmount Park Conservancy, alongside Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, is working closely with coaches, advocates, and other youth sports leaders in Philadelphia to connect young athletes and their teams with the resources they need: safe and structured playing fields, equipment, meeting space and more.
“We see everything going on in the city and we want to make things better,” said Anthony Meadows, president of South Philly Sigma Sharks. “If we show our kids better, they’ll do better.”
The Conservancy envisions an equitable urban parks system, and we know that coaches from all over the city often look to FDR Park for field space. The multi-phase, multi-decade FDR Park Plan meets these needs with the creation of state-of-the-art athletic fields that will be raised out of the floodplain and are made from all-natural performance turf to ensure safe and continuous play. With these improvements, FDR Park can help ensure equitable access to play spaces for communities, families and youth athletes throughout Philadelphia.
We also know that these coaches need much more than space. One organization spent $12,000 last year on ref fees alone. Another has a hard time getting kids to practice at fields in other neighborhoods while their home rec center is being renovated. Some coaches have access to grants and corporate sponsorships, while others still rely on community events as their sole means of fundraising — putting even more work on volunteers and parents.
“Fundraising needs [for youth sports coaches] have outgrown fish fries,” said Eric Worley, director of Neighborhood Based Programs and cofounder of Philadelphia Youth Basketball.
Implementing the FDR Park Plan will meet many of these athletes’ facility needs, and the Conservancy’s dedicated staff — led by Director of Coalition & Convening Lula Defersha and Coalition & Convening Manager TJ Von Oesen — will continue to meet regularly with these Youth Sports Ambassadors to connect them with the people, programs, and trainings they need to thrive as coaches and deliver the very best for the kids they serve.
Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation continue to work with FDR Park stakeholders — particularly the Youth Sports Ambassadors — to ensure equitable community access to all spaces in FDR Park. By adding more usable space for park users, safe and reliable parks can be available and accessible for all.
Meet the FDR Park Youth Sports Ambassadors:
- Charles Bostic, Unity Foundation
- Andre Fallen, Ivy Hill Saints
- George Gilmore, Southwest Rams
- Deirdre Gladden, South Philly Sigma Sharks
- Ramon Jerry, AA Youth Sports
- Bobbie King, South Philly Sigma Sharks
- Cliff Logan, CLS Mustangs
- John Maher, Philadelphia Dragons
- Anthony Meadows, South Philly Sigma Sharks
- Nate Reed, West Philly Panthers
- Eddie Smith, Cool Fabrics Basketball
- Elizabeth Strong, North Philly Stingrays
We look forward to sharing each ambassador’s story as the FDR Park Plan progresses.