With the window for Major League Soccer All-Star fan voting closed, the league has now shifted its attention to a new focus, M.L.S.W.O.R.K.S Community MVP. Every club is represented by an individual who exhibits leadership qualities, while promoting goodwill and helping to enrich their community. Each representative is recognized both locally and nationally, but only one individual will take home the grand prize, which includes a $10,000 donation to a charity of their choice and a trip to the July 31 AT&T MLS All-Star game in Kansas City.
Philadelphia Union are represented by Nick Chrisanthon, the Program Implementation Director for Starfinder, a non-profit organization based in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. Starfinder uses soccer, educational and personal development programs to help underprivileged youths within the community to achieve success both on and off the field. Chrisanthon oversees the organization’s program interventions and personally impacts the lives of 700 children. On an average day, Chrisanthon works with 60 kids to help develop and improve their physical and mental approaches to life by combining nutritional lessons with spirited soccer related activities.
Chrisanthon’s love of the game is only exceeded by his dedication and drive to help his surrounding community and the lives within it. His great work has not gone unnoticed and the Philadelphia Union is extremely proud to have such a valuable member of society representing them. Philadelphiaunion.com caught up with Chrisanthon to discuss his recent nomination and his work at Starfinder.
Submit your vote for Nick Chrisanthon to become M.L.S.W.O.R.K.S Community MVP by clicking this link: ow.ly/mU6CG
Philadelphiaunion.com: What does it mean to you to get nominated for Community MVP?
Nick Chrisanthon: For me it is very exciting. I don’t do the things that I do for the accolades, but to get recognition from an organization like the Philadelphia Union and to get nominated is a great honor and makes it all worth it. When you know that people can recognize that you are doing great work in the community and the kids, parents, and the organization are all getting behind this push to help me with the vote, it is fantastic. It is humbling, you don’t get into this work for the accolades, you get into it for the kids and for the parents, and it is very humbling and very exciting as well.
PU.com: In your mind, what makes Starfinder such a valuable organization?
NC: For us in the soccer community, a lot of kids do play soccer and a lot of kids are playing club soccer. They are paying to play and they are coming, doing their soccer and then they are leaving. Starfinder brings an added element to the program. One, it is for under-resourced kids and there is no charge for the program, but also we are helping to develop kids’ academics, their character, their leadership skills, and life skills to help them move forward and also be a support network for these children.
PU.com: What does the average day consist of for the kids in the program?
NC: Our programs are basically two days a week, minus our summer camp programs. So they have a day when they come in and do some soccer training and they do an enrichment activity, which could be health and wellness, character education, leadership, team building or cultural awareness. So when they come in the first day of the week they do about an hour of soccer and 30-45 minutes of these enrichment activities. We don’t call them academic or classroom activities, we call them enrichment activities because it is not really focused around being lectured to, it is more hands on and they are involved with what’s going on. The second day of the week, they come in, they do some training and they get to play.
PU.com: Do you have teams within the program?
NC: We don’t offer teams here so the kids are always trying to compete with each other inside the programs. We don’t have the wherewith-all to create teams; we are just here to give kids an opportunity to learn and develop themselves inside our youth development organization. That is what makes us special; we are about youth development, not just about the soccer.
PU.com: How has the game of soccer helped shape the way you go about coaching and teaching the kids within the program?
NC: I think there are so many lessons that can learned about how to be a leader, how to be a team member, how to accomplish a goal as a group. There are so many lessons that I have learned through playing with the youth ranks, with the college program, and also playing professionally in the old USL and A-League. You can always learn from every situation, whether it is learning to deal with different coaching personalities or different teammate personalities or trying to work together to accomplish a goal. There are so many different lessons amongst a team environment that you can learn from. A successful team is usually successful not only because their skills and the things that they have, but because they care about each other, they respect each other. These character traits that help move a team along. When you don’t have that at times it can really be bad for chemistry and the teams end up not being successful. Not only is it about your athletic ability, but how you treat other people and how you work within that environment. Those are also life lessons that you can take to your job or to college or whatever you are moving onto going forward.
PU.com: Have you had any personal experiences or influences that played a large role in where you are today?
NC: When I came up I played for Nether Providence soccer club and we had a gentleman who ran the club back in the day by the name of Bob Urban. Bob’s life as Nether Providence soccer and he would go out to all the fields, he would paint the fields, he would line the fields, he would put up the nets, he would set up coaching clinics, he did all this stuff and my family was a very big admirer of his. He helped get us into a program, where there weren’t a lot of programs at four and five years old. Bob was there and offered an opportunity.
PU.com: Growing up, was giving back to community instilled upon you by your family?
NC: My family has always talked about giving back to the community that gave to you and from my perspective soccer is a great way to learn lots of life lessons and the best you can do is to give back to the game. I have been fortunate enough to play at a lot of different levels, have a lot of different experiences and to be able to give back to kids, not only on the soccer field, but with some of those other lessons I have learned along the way is a tremendous opportunity. It is very satisfying when you see kids from our program graduating high school, which doesn’t happen very often in Philadelphia; 56 percent of the kids that enter sixth grade graduate high school, 44 percent don’t graduate. For Starfinder to see kids 100 percent of the time graduating high school and 90-95 percent of them enrolling into post-secondary education is really what is cool.
Remember to submit your vote for Nick Chrisanthon to become M.L.S.W.O.R.K.S Community MVP by clicking this link: ow.ly/mU6CG