The Overbrook Monarch Athletic Association takes competition to a deeper level. These young athletes are much more than a group of kids playing games. They are dedicated athletes who have successfully won numerous trophies and championship titles over the past 10 years.
However, their successes are not measured by the amount of awards they receive or the number of games they win. The true meaning of their success is in good sportsmanship, academic achievement and commitment to their community.
“Our mission is to make a difference in a young person’s life,” Sonantonious “Sonny” Moore, president of the association, said. “We started with around 124 kids now we have close to 1,000 kids annually in different sports.”
The Granahan Recreation Center, the main location for where the Monarchs play and practice,would have been set for demolition if the Monarchs did not begin their mission to improve their part of the West Philadelphia community in 2003. The once barren field is complete with essential equipment, custom scoreboards and personal locker rooms.
Moore shared there were previously, “youth killings a stone’s throw away” from the Granahan facility.
“We’re a working-class neighborhood but in the last 10 years there’s been an influx in violence in the community,” Moore said.
By offering an outlet to the youth in the area, the league provides an alternative to crime and violence. With positive role models and structured schedules Moore and the countless volunteers are determined to improve the future of their community, starting with their children.
“Individuals that participate in sports have less tendency to get involved in gangs, in drugs, in teenage pregnancy,” Moore said. “Our practices are very strenuous—you come home from a practice, you go home do your homework, eat your dinner, take your shower, go to bed, say your prayers for the next day—it does not give the time or the leisure for these kids to get involved with anything that’s negative.”
“In order for you to succeed in life you have to have an education,” Moore said. “And the education in the sports work hand in glove.”
Parents find the organization is providing their children with positive social interaction which improves their problem solving and people skills.
“What stuck out for me is that they’re close knit and family-oriented organization,” Danett Candelaria, a Monarch parent, said. “I’ve seen a huge difference since my son joined, he’s formed good friendships, and I’ve formed good friendships.”
The Monarch family consists of volunteers, coaches, board members and athletes who passionately support the league’s mission in Overbrook and want to positively influence neighborhoods throughout the city which may be in even greater need.
“It’s time we put ourselves on the map and took our program and modeled it for other communities to be able to use,” Tina Lloyd, a Monarch parent and volunteer, said.
Word of mouth has brought parents from Delaware, New Jersey, Northeast Philadelphia and Lansdowne. Joyce Flemming of Upper Darby, rides the bus everyday after school for practices and early on Saturdays for games with her grandson.
Flemming took custody of her grandson, Nasseur, in 2007 and has found the Monarch’s to be the best thing to happen to them.
“I try to give him [Nasseur] everything he couldn’t get from his mom,” Flemming said. “I want him to finish school and become the best person he can be and just pay it forward.”
Although league is comprised of athletes from different neighborhoods, it still strives to unite young people in Philadelphia.
“People need to take pride in where they live; they need to realize that they can make their community a great place to be if they all put in their time and their effort and hard work,” Chanel Broadus, director of public relations, said. “We want to keep it crime free as much as possible.”
On the field and on the court, Monarchs are practicing techniques to handle the pressures they face growing up in an urban setting.
“They learn to take on things in life,” Andrea Cumbo, a Monarch parent and board member, said. “They’re learning that you aren’t always going to win, you got to lose sometimes.”
Cumbo enrolled both her sons with the league. She was previously with another athletic association in West Philadelphia, but switched to the Monarchs for a more comprehensive approach to sports.
“Academics are first, athletics are second,” Cumbo said. “My older son tells me ‘if me playing sports enables me to go to college then I’m going to use it to help pay for college,’ they’re not going into the NFL or NBA, they’re using it to go to college and that’s what I want them to do—go to college.”