South Philadelphia: Rec Leader Guides Former Recreation Center

Anthony Spadaccini spent countless hours as a kid at Barry Playground. Whether it was playing basketball, baseball or football, Barry was a second home for Spadaccini.

That still holds true today, as Spadaccini, 46, is in his sixth year working as the recreation leader at the playground in his old neighborhood.

With a background as a personal trainer and a teacher, Spadaccini truly found a passion when he began working at Guerin Recreation Center in 2006. He worked his way up the Recreation Leader ladder, and is back home at the place he grew so fond of many years ago.

What is a typical day like for you?

Normally, programming starts around 6 p.m. Because we’re under renovations—they just did the inside of the building [in August], they added new bathrooms and updated the kitchen and next they’ll be doing the court—I can’t really do anything until everything is done.

When I do programming, I do it a lot at other rec centers. I’ll do indoor basketball, fall baseball, touch football and then spring baseball. And we have other types of programming in the summer. Our busiest time is the summer. We have day camp and we have the pool. So, I’m responsible for that. I hire staff that work camp for me, but I oversee it.


What role does Barry Playground play in the community?

I think it’s very important because kids get into trouble. Sometimes they just need somewhere to go. They can start organized sports here with tee-ball at 5-years old.

I get to meet the families and a lot of the parents I grew up with. People in this area are comfortable with someone they know. There have been other rec leaders who weren’t from the neighborhood and just passed through, but relationships are important, especially with the kids getting into trouble.

If I need to call the parents, I can do that and they trust me.


Would you say you’re more passionate about this job because you’re from here?

Absolutely. I have a son who is 12. Same thing with him – he started out at camp when he was 5.

It’s good because the kids can come up with a sense of responsibility. They’re comfortable here. They grew up, they had fun, they played sports and then I like to try to bring them on to work here. They can become more responsible and get paid to work.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

I think programming is my specialty. What I do is start leagues when the kids are young, and then I get to know that group of kids and then 13-year-olds become 14-year-olds and I just keep raising the ages of these leagues.

I think my role here is to be their friend, watch over kids and make sure kids have somewhere safe to go. I’ve been here enough to know that when kids are familiar, they feel safer.

img_1273What challenges do you face at this facility?

Indoor programming is a challenge right now because we’re waiting for the space to be done. I’m hoping to have an after-school program. We’re equipped for it. Programs like yoga and town meetings. We even have the election here as a polling place.

So, once the renovations are done we want to get back to that.

Do you have a lot of kids coming to you for advice?

I try to give kids my advice even if they don’t ask for it because they might not even have a direction. Even just seeing kids succeed and telling them, ‘Hey, good job.’

You don’t how these kids’ home life is. You don’t know if they have someone telling them that. I just try to stay connected as much as possible with them.

-Text and Images by Tim Merrick and Ben McWilliams.

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