An appreciation of Dave Goldberg, a hero to youth athletes and parents

by Joe Monahan
Posted 9/18/20

If kids were asked what they would like to be when they grow up, World Cup soccer star, award-winning actress, Eagles quarterback or pop singer would likely feature prominently on many of the answer …

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An appreciation of Dave Goldberg, a hero to youth athletes and parents

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If kids were asked what they would like to be when they grow up, World Cup soccer star, award-winning actress, Eagles quarterback or pop singer would likely feature prominently on many of the answer sheets. Each of those responses would no doubt be consistent with the types of answers given by successive generations of kids, but with the specific names of their heroes varying from one era to the next.

While entertaining dreams of breathing such rarefied air is wonderful, it is sometimes easy to forget the critical yet less celebrated role that some play in making a profound impact on the life of a community. While not flashing a Super Bowl ring, nor heralded at a gala awards show, many of these unsung heroes make a far bigger impact on the daily life of these same children than they could ever imagine. While this letter could rightly focus on any number of such people we are lucky to call our neighbors and friends, Mount Airy’s Dave Goldberg is one of these community champions, and his time to go from “unsung” to “sung” is overdue.

To say that Dave has made children the focus of his life’s work is not mere hyperbole. Dave’s day job finds him at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he works long hours as a pediatric cardiologist. While the demands of that role would be plenty for many of us to take on, for years Dave has occupied untold hours of his limited spare time to identify unmet needs for local kids looking for an athletic and social outlet, and creating the opportunities to address those needs. In some cases, the rest of us had not realized there had even been a need until Dave devised a plan to address it.

Whether it be creating a boys and girls travel basketball option through the Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club, conceiving of and organizing an intramural basketball league for high school aged players where none previously existed, organizing an annual Turkey Bowl football game for neighborhood kids each Thanksgiving weekend, or scheduling every game for the thirty-plus baseball teams across Mount Airy Baseball’s various age groupings, Dave’s selfless work has impacted the lives of the kids in our community, and the community as a whole, far more than a professional athlete or celebrity ever could.

I write this not as a dispassionate observer, but as a father who has seen so much of his own son’s life to date be shaped by the athletic opportunities presented him and the lifelong friends from all walks of life our whole family has made through those opportunities. Starting with the informal gatherings that Dave organized for 6-and 7-year-olds for “Thursday Night Baseball” when the kids were still trying to figure out which hand was their throwing hand and which their glove hand, to the years of progressing through the various levels of Mount Airy Baseball playing games that were part of the complex master schedule devised by Dave, to as recently as this past Labor Day weekend, when Dave came up with the idea to create a reunion weekend of games so that the cohort of players who came up together from those early days (some even from the Thursday Night Baseball sessions) that are now high schoolers could come together again and play for the pure fun of playing the game they love with friends with whom they have grown up, Dave Goldberg created or enhanced so many of those opportunities.

Likewise when it comes to basketball, when Dave realized several years ago that Chestnut Hill did not offer a travel option, he created one across multiple age groups for both boys and girls, then helped coach several teams. More recently, just as my son and many others were aging out of the travel league, Dave recognized that there was a large group of high-school-aged players looking for a place to continue playing, and he created from scratch an in-house league for them, which they loved. We parents loved it every bit as much, as it became a Sunday gathering spot for the families to socialize while rooting on our own and each other’s children, kids for whom we all have been doing the same for the better part of a decade. Had Dave not stepped up to first recognize there was a need and then do all the work involved in addressing it (finding gym space for both practices and games, enlisting coaches, formulating the league schedule and lining up referees), that league simply does not happen, and a cadre of teenagers and their parents lose out on a special experience.  

With the pandemic, widespread economic uncertainty, the ongoing fight for racial equity and justice and the unrelenting political news, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of some of the positives that should be rightly embraced. Among other things, strong, diverse and vibrant communities should be both celebrated and nurtured. Such communities are not born spontaneously out of whole cloth, nor are they self-sustaining; they are instead the result of the work of the individual members that know they are part of something larger than themselves, who are generous with their time and talents, and who know the importance of leaving their respective communities in a better place than they found them. While he will hate the attention this letter brings his way, Dave Goldberg deserves to be recognized as just such an individual. On behalf of my family, and so many others who have been so positively impacted by his selflessness, this letter is intended to sincerely thank him and bring him the recognition he deserves. While he may not be a Grammy or World Series winner, he is a terrific role model all the same.       

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