Kensington: Youth Leader Provides Sports Activities Through Pandemic

Agosto (right) with summer tee ball league and parents in toe, heading onto the field for practice. One of the rules Agosto has been adamant about from the beginning, is that parents should stay during practices, bringing greater community engagement and support to all of his teams and programs. (Courtesy Felix Agosto Jr.)

Felix Agosto has been a fixture in Kensington for seven years as the head of MVP360, a nonprofit organization that facilitates youth sports teams. Agosto manages this effort out of The Lighthouse community center, which he is also the president of. Since 2014, his work with youth sports and The Lighthouse fosters a community of support for kids through high school.

When the pandemic started, youth sports were mostly put on hold. But Agosto refuses to abandon his kids. Born out of the space left when sports were canceled across the country, Agosto created Leadership First Academy aimed at building life skills like career readiness, problem-solving, and team collaboration.

First, how’d you get involved with MVP360 and The Lighthouse?

It’s my organization. So, I retired from the military in 2012, and towards the end of my time in the military I started coming up with ideas and things that I wanted to do after I retired. 

It was really inspired by my son. My son was a preemie when he was born, and he didn’t really get into too many competitive sports. 

I noticed that over the years the recreational aspect of sports had gone away. Kids being able to play and have fun wasn’t really available. So, I started the organization. We did a couple of after-school programs and probably in 2014, when I went to Philadelphia, was the first time I did a program there and it was at The Lighthouse.

Agosto (center), assistant coaches, and youth soccer league enjoy a pre-COVID-19 practice. Aside from Leadership Academy, Agosto also runs MVP 360 and has been sponsored by the Philadelphia Eagles. (Courtesy Felix Agosto Jr.)

Did you play sports in high school?

I played sports, mainly basketball, but I had not had a great upbringing. So, having that support system to play sports in school wasn’t really an option for me.

Part of the reason I think MVP360 was successful was because I catered to the kids who weren’t as athletic, kind of gave them an opportunity. There’s a skill that comes with doing that. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you can actually teach other kids how to do it. That was one of the things that, I think, set us apart as well. My mind works differently, and I can come up with ways to teach them how to do something in an unconventional way.

Basketball was something I started when I was 12, and I literally played up until I couldn’t play any more. I still would play [now] in my head, but my body’s like “Nah …” But, you know, in my head I still play. 

Agosto (top, second from the left), volunteer facilitators, and students, gather on Zoom for weekly Leadership Academy cohort meetings. During their meetings, students and facilitators discuss career plans, and trade life advice and personal stories from their careers. (Courtesy Felix Agosto Jr.)

Did the Leadership Academy exist pre-COVID?

No, so when I started MVP360 it was kind of a package deal. So, MVP stands for Motive Value Personality, and 360 stands for like the total person. So, the MVP part of it was kind of character building through sports, and the 360 was, you know, working with education, social-emotional well-being. So, that’s where the Leadership First Academy first came into play. The sports side got pretty big pretty quickly, so it was hard for me to, you know, circle back and include the leadership programs. 

So, when COVID hit, it kind of gave me an opportunity to go ahead and launch it. I’m not currently running sports, so it gave me an opportunity to do that. We’re actually just wrapping up our second group, and we’re going to go into our third on Mar. 23rd.

Agosto describes the impact and methods that facilitators and he take when working with Leadership Academy students. Agosto’s focus on integrity and authenticity are what set his program apart from other’s like it.

What goes into a cohort? Is it like a set of classes?

Yeah, so we kind of have a theme for every one of them. Entrepreneurship was the first one. They had to come up with an idea for a business and then we helped them. So, every Monday we would pick an element of developing a business plan. 

We would also talk about different topics, and then as we’re going through that we have guest speakers or facilitators that log in every Monday. And they just help facilitate conversations, answer questions, and fill in the blanks. That way, they’re not just hearing it [advice] from one person. It keeps growing. When it started out we had about four of us that were logging in consistently, and now I think we have about 12 that are involved. 

As far as classes go, we talk about group dynamic, team development, problem solving, situational leadership. … The first one [cohort] was entrepreneurship. This one was career development, so kids developed a career plan. 

Every session was one part of that. We started out with taking four jobs and narrowed it down to two jobs, and then they had to write a paper that explained what job they chose and why they chose it. Then, last night there were five of them that actually did presentations.

Agosto (right) talking to his youth basketball team in the MVP360 program. Agosto makes a point to coach kids of all ability levels, believing that sports should be shared by all who want to be a part of it. (Courtesy Felix Agosto Jr.)

What gets them excited?

They’re all kind of interested in a lot of things. Like, we had one last night that wants to be a psychiatrist, but she’s also really artistic. She makes music, she crochets, she does a lot of different things, ballet, dance. She has a lot of different interests. 

We have another one that wants to be a gaming designer. She doesn’t just want to play games. She actually wants to design games and create her own company. There’s another one that’s also into dancing and things like that. 

We have a kid that wants to be a mechanical engineer but he’s also into sports. It’s kind of a wide range. We had a nurse, someone who wants to be a psychologist, and they all had different reasons for wanting to go down these different paths. 

So when they do that, our job is to push them on how much information they actually have. We try and get them to figure out if it’s because they actually want to, and not just because there’s someone close to them that does that. So that’s what we really focus on, but there’s a wide range that comes through. 

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