Smith, Philadelphia Union’s Vice President of Soccer Development, will serve the Chester Upland School District (CUSD) as an “executive on loan” for the 2009-2010 school year.
What does that mean? Soccer, in Chester, at long last. Within the Commonwealth, Chester is the lone PIAA 4-AAAA school without a soccer program.
And Smith’s job is to change that.
“I will be getting the soccer program up and running in the elementary schools, middle schools and the high school, while also helping youth soccer programs in the city, of which there are three that we’re aware of right now,” Smith said.
Smith, 47, hails from Coatesville, Pa., though much of his large family comes from Chester. Although his work with CUSD officially started after Labor Day, when students returned to school, Smith has actually been working with the district on behalf of Philadelphia Union for over a year.
Specifically, Smith said he’s worked with Dr. Gregory Thornton, CUSD superintendent, “for six months or so.” Thornton has a “very strong interest in getting the program up and running.” The pair discussed the feasibility of building a soccer program and how to make it reality.
Also, Smith said he has met with the athletic directors at some of the schools, particularly Chester High School and Showalter Middle School. His responsibilities and daily tasks are not yet defined and will likely change while CUSD’s soccer program goes through different phases of growth.
Prior to role with the Philadelphia Union, Smith was a long-time coach and administrator for FC DELCO, one of the nation’s premier youth soccer clubs and a Nike sales executive. Suffice it to say he possesses the credentials to bring soccer to CUSD.
That doesn’t make it easy.
“I think initially, generating interest at the high school (will be a challenge),” Smith said. “I think over time the elementary and middle schools will become great feeders, but to get a high school varsity team off the ground requires generating interest and recruiting available athletes to see what it’s all about.”
For Smith, that means pulling kids from gym classes, bringing them to soccer games – essentially, doing whatever it takes to expose them to soccer.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to have another choice, another option. It’s a great sport – the whole fitness aspect of it, the discipline,” Smith said. “It’s also a great opportunity for the community, the school district, and Philadelphia Union is excited to be involved at all levels.”