A.C.E. Chief Operations Officer, Tony Fantham recently retired from 11 years as the head boys’ soccer coach at Ingraham High School. A lifelong soccer fan (or “football” as he would call it at home in England), Tony began as a volunteer at Ingraham in 1999 and became the head coach the following year. Tony never missed a game throughout those twelve years!
Tony felt that his role as coach was about more than just soccer. It was a way of inspiring the kids to go to school and mentoring them during an important age of transition. “Soccer was almost secondary. It’s all about helping these kids get to the next level in life, whatever that may be”. He expected them to be respectful of not just their teammates, but of the game itself, their opposition, the referee, and their audience – an important lesson both on and off the field.
Tony chose to coach for Ingraham over other local schools because of its diverse student population. Many of the students’ families have recently immigrated to the USA and English is their second language. For students who are not confident in their English, classes pose a greater challenge and they often seem shy at school. “Soccer was a way of getting them out that veneer of shyness because it transcends language.” Tony loved seeing the “camaraderie amongst the different nationalities” on his team and says that his role as coach was “to find the glue that kept them all together so that the kids all saw themselves as part of a team”.
Tony’s tough decision to move from head coach to volunteer came in part from his decision devote more time to leading operations of the A.C.E. World Language and Culture Ambassadors program (WLCA). Continuing with his passion for multiculturalism, Tony sees great value in this program’s ability to create cross-cultural communities within our local K-12 schools and empower local youth to succeed in a global community.