Soccer Sisters United (SSU), a girls youth travel team located in Germantown, is a nonprofit organization run by head coach, Walter Stewart. Stewart started the program in 1998 as a part of the Anderson Monarchs’ Girls Soccer Club, but later branched off to form SSU.
Despite moving from South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood to their current location in Vernon Park, SSU has not strayed from their mission of providing both soccer training as well as academic support for their inter-city players. “Soccer is secondary to education,” said Stewart, “almost every one of our hundreds of players has graduated high school on time, and gone on to college.”
Stewart often recruits girls into the program that are his students at DePaul Catholic School. Assistant coach, Paul DiGilio, does this as well. DiGilio, a music teacher at West Philadelphia Achievement Charter Elementary School, has been with SSU for two years now. He brings with him 15 years of coaching experience, but also a love for working with children.
DiGilio has a background in cross fit training and works with the girls to train their core muscles. Since DiGilio began he has seen the young girls grow up and become better players. “These girls already have a lot of natural talent, coordination-wise and have good rhythm. The sport of soccer brings that out,” he said.The girls of SSU develop self-confidence and self-pride by working hard in practice and gaining a sense of achievement. DiGilio mentions how even heading a ball the correct way gives the girls a feeling of success. They are taught that even slightest achievements are something to be proud of.
“I know they appreciate it because they keep coming out,” noted DiGilio. He added that some girls come from as far as Upper Darby to play, three times a week.
Soleil, 10, has been playing soccer since the age of 5 and recently began with Soccer Sisters United last year. “I like it because I get to learn something new everyday and it makes you stronger,” she said.
Several mothers mentioned a community has formed through this organization and how excited their girls are to attend every practice and game. Baptista Marrow, a 31-year resident of Germantown, has 3 daughters on the team. “All the girls are becoming sisters,” said Marrow. “They are all very friendly and close.”