Soccer Six squads team up to raise awareness, funds for city's Starfinder Foundation

Philly Soccer Six, Starfinder team up to benefit area youth

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Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Soccer Six

What: "Super Soccer Sunday"  Youth clinic and college soccer tournament

When: Sunday, April 6; Where: "Penn Park" Soccer Fields at the University of Pennsylvania

Who: First-eighth grade children (no pre-registration required); Cost: Donation of $10 per child (check or cash)

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This Sunday is reserved for soccer at Penn Park.

Take six teams, nine games, plus one full hour of youth activity and you've got "Super Soccer Sunday."

It's a combination college tournament and fundraiser benefiting Philadelphia's Starfinder Foundation.

University of Pennsylvania head coach Rudy Fuller is a Starfinder board member and came up with the idea.

"The hope is to certainly shine a light on a soccer organization in the city that's doing a lot of good work," Fuller told philadelphiaunion.com recently. "We also want to highlight college soccer in general and try to get people out to watch all six programs that are located in Philadelphia."

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 6 with an hour-long youth clinic that will be run by the coaches of Penn, Temple, Villanova, La Salle, Drexel, and Saint Joseph's. The cost is $10, and all children from first grade through eighth grade are invited to take part.

From there, the six college teams will play a round robin tournament that culminates with a championship game at 6:30 p.m. They will be split into two "pods," just like a grouping you'd see in the World Cup or Champions League.

All proceeds go to Starfinder, which runs afterschool and summer soccer programs for local children of out its Manayunk facility.

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"The event has two purposes," said Starfinder executive director Heidi Warren. "One is to bring together the soccer six community for an awesome day of competition. But we

 also want to highlight the work that Starfinder is doing with under served youth throughout Philadelphia."

The collaboration between the "Soccer Six" and Starfinder makes a lot of sense. With a growing local community, it's a way to bring together the people and programs that are involved with soccer in any sort of capacity.

Consider the precedent set by the "Big 5" and "City 6" basketball schools and their participation in the "Coaches vs. Cancer" programs.

Beyond the competition on the hardwood, the local footprint is extended to community and charitable deeds.

"The genesis of this came when the Philadelphia "Soccer Six" coaches got together and were looking for a way to give back to the community," Fuller explained. "We didn't have to look far to see the tremendous work that the Big 5 coaches have done with 'Coaches vs. Cancer'. We kind of used that as a model, trying to find a local organization that we think would be a good fit for our programs giving back, and Starfinder, being an inner city soccer organization, was a natural fit. This whole relationship is in its infancy stages. We would love to get to a point where we are having as great of an impact on Starfinder as the Big 5 coaches are with 'Coaches vs. Cancer'. But right now that's well into the future. We're just hoping to have a great day of college soccer at a central location in the city and help a local soccer organization grow and gain a little bit of notoriety."

You may have played at Starfinder's facility.

Adult recreational leagues have regular games inside the building, and the Tuesday and Thursday pickup games draw up to thirty people on some afternoons.

But the foundation's main focus is providing educational and developmental programs to children from inner-city Philadelphia.

Since 2002, the facility has been working with 600 to 700 kids each year. For six straight years, 100 percent of Starfinder's regularly-attending seniors have completed high school. All of those kids have either been accepted into college, or have plans to pursue higher education.

"We're really interested in figuring out ways to raise our visibility," Warren added. "We know that people who love soccer are interested in the work we're doing. They're behind the idea of using soccer in this whole other way, to support kids and youth development. I would love to find ways to build some meaningful relationships, and one of the things that's a challenge for us to to try to find those points of connection that allow people to understand what (our kids are like). You have the highest concentration of under served youth in Philadelphia, so there's a real need, in terms of that population, to have the kind of programming that supports their success."

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com