The PCA Blog

PCA February Partner of the Month: The Philadelphia Eagles and Mastbaum High School

In January of 2023, The Philadelphia Inquirer spotlighted Mastbaum High School in Philadelphia, PA, in an article that began:

“Jordy Navas-Garcia leaves home in Fishtown every morning to walk to school, a 20-minute trip to a towering brick building at the epicenter of Philadelphia’s opioid crisis in Kensington. ‘When I’m walking here, I’m walking by people offering me drugs, needles on the street — a very toxic environment,’ said Navas-Garcia. ‘But then I get here, and it’s different.’”

We spoke with Mastbaum Principal David Lon and Athletic Director Antoinette Calimag and our takeaway was similar - - there is something that is unique and different about this school and the Philadelphia Eagles feel the same. 

From Left to Right, Principal Lon and Athletic Director Calimag

“Over the past few years things have especially not been easy as we were once upon a time a school with enrollment of approximately 900 and now, we are down to under 600 and that has impacted everything including the athletic program”, said Lon.

Mastbaum, which has a historically proud football program, only had 8 players try out for the 2023 Varsity football team. On top of that, they were caught off guard when a local school that was supposed to partner with them to field enough players for a varsity team pulled out of the program.

Instead of rolling with the idea of the elimination of football from the school, they decided to take action. “We made a change in our coaching staff, appointing our carpenter teacher as the football coach and we hired another one of our community partners as our assistant,” says Lon. “We started out with eight players as the core group and then we got to 38 players in the end and the district allowed us to play a modified junior varsity schedule.”  The players knew that by coming together and fielding a team of close to 40, they had saved the football program at Mastbaum. “I know it almost seems corny to say it but our kids, by just making this team happen, that made them champions - the kids and the athletic staff”, said Calimag.

Mastbaum students with PCA Trainer Monica Livingston (center front)

The Philadelphia Eagles learned about Mastbaum and wanted to support them as they work on bringing varsity football back to the school for 2024. They invited the team to come out to Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play, and conducted a seminar for the players and coaches led by PCA. PCA’s trainer Monica Livingston did a combination “Triple Impact Competitor” and "Competing with Empathy" workshop.  “We were thrilled to have coaches, teachers, and school administrators attend and the group was super engaged which is what makes for a great workshop” said Brandon Whiting, PCA's Mid-Atlantic Partnership Manager and former Eagles defensive end.

Calimag said the workshop was well received as “with PCA it is about uplifting your teammates, being supportive of their efforts, recognizing that everybody’s effort has something to contribute. And I think that PCA not having emphasis on winning, but emphasis on being a good teammate, knowing how to give feedback, knowing how to receive feedback, having a growth mindset, those are the things that the kids needed to hear.” 

“Overall the experience has been amazing. For our players to know that they saved the team and then have organizations like the Philadelphia Eagles and Positive Coaching Alliance honor them - well that was a validation for the hard work they did struggling to put together the team” said Calimag.

“Part of the perseverance that we expect in our students and the athletic leadership is that every single kid on the team is a leader and that was part of what they learned in the PCA workshop”, said Lon.

“Involvement in sport has the power to positively impact the development of youth athletes,” said Dan Levy, Philadelphia Eagles Youth Football and Community Relations Manager.  “We take pride in working alongside like-minded organizations such as Positive Coach Alliance who recognize the importance of providing athletes with the experiences, resources and support needed to be successful leaders on the field and in their communities. We look forward to continuing our support of Mastbaum High School and are honored to be recognized as PCA’s Partner of the Month.”

Principal Lon thinks what has happened with the football team has impacted the whole school.  “We track a metric in the school district called ‘On Track to Graduate,’ and this year we actually had the greatest single year increase in this metric for ninth graders in the district for the first quarter with 71% of our students on track to graduate, which is up 41% from at this time last year.”

Another key benefit of the past year has been the impact beyond football. The players not only saw that as they saved their football team, they also better understood that they can “advocate for themselves for things that they deserve and understand that are able to take the skill of advocacy to get what they deserve.” said Calimag.

Mastbaum Athletic Director Antoinette Calimag and Shaun Bradley, Philadelphia Eagles

This has also greatly impacted other sports. Kids on the football team have “embraced what they learned from PCA and helped use that for the basketball team - you know applying perseverance, and cooperation in teammates, cooperative effort.”

PCA and the Eagles look forward to our continued partnership with Mastbaum High School, ensuring every student has access to a positive youth sports experience.