Coach Daryl Murphy: Changing the game by giving kids a running chance

Cherri Gregg
February 11, 2020 - 4:30 am
Coach Daryl Murphy.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For Daryl Murphy, running has been in his DNA from day one.

"To me, it's just the perfect sport," he said.

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, Murphy was a sprinter in the Mallery Challengers Track Club in Germantown. The group was founded by George Anderson, Murphy's mentor, who coached and trained him as a protégé.

The club practiced at the Mallery Recreation Center, a place Murphy grew to love. Eventually, the Villanova University graduate began volunteering and he took over as head coach in 1982. While he doesn't get paid for the work, he loves it.

2016 Olympic silver medallist Nia Ali.
Courtesy of Daryl Murphy

"I love how enthusiastic they are," said Murphy, "and many of the programs have been cut back and the kids don't have anything to do, so we provide a buffer from the time they get out of school to when their parents get home."

The coed track club attracts kids, mostly African American, from all over North and Northwest Philadelphia. Many of the boys play football in the fall and run indoor track in the winter. 

Overall, Murphy has graduated over 1,000 alumni from the program. The roster includes D.J. Moore, starting wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. 

Moore ran with Mallery until he went to high school and switched to football.

"It broke my heart," he said, "but when I went to see him play at a football game, I knew he made the right decision."

The darling of the club is 2016 Olympic silver medallist Nia Ali. She recently won a gold medal at the world championships in the 100 meter hurdles.

"She was always a tremendous athlete from the time she was 7 years old all the way until now," said Murphy. "She is just a great symbol of everything we stand for."

Other outstanding runners in the club include Pennsylvania Rep. Morgan Cephas, Dr. Carlton Young, a transplant surgeon now living in Alabama, and many more. 

"We have doctors, lawyers, teachers," he added.  

Through tough workouts and by tracking their progress, Murphy instills in his athletes all the tools they need to win.

"Discipline, hard work, loyalty and just being on a team," he explained.

The facilities at Mallery, however, are modest at best. Lack of funding means the kids run on a dirt track during the summer and fall, and inside of an old basketball gym during the winter. 

While he wishes they had state-of-the-art facilities, he doesn't see it as a disadvantage.

"It toughens them up and makes them appreciate more," said Murphy. "And when our kids go to a track meet, they are really ready to compete."

In addition to coaching track, Murphy is also the meet director of the United Age Group Track Coaches Association, where he overseas nine indoor and outdoor track meets for 14 track clubs in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region.  

Murphy recently retired from a job at the U.S. Postal Service. He worked overnights, which freed up his days for track.

"Seeing the kids smile when the get better is where I get joy," he said. 

The toughest part is helping parents understand that not every kid in the club is a star.

"The parents get hyped about it," Murphy said with a chuckle.

Murphy says the runners who are successful in the meets get to go to more meets. Those who don't still can run and improve their skills. The opportunity takes kids to competitions across the country and Mallery does well.

"We bring home all the awards and stuff and people don't like that," said Murphy.

Sometimes he puts up money from his own pocket when fundraising falls short. His dedication and success on the field earned him the titled 2019 Coach of the Year at the Colgate Games.

"It was a surprise," he said, "they never really recognize any of the coaches from the Philadelphia area, so it was a nice surprise."

A quiet force, Murphy doesn't say much. But when he does, his words go far with his 38 years of coach kids changing lives. 

"I believe I am changing the game by giving kids a chance," he said, "by showing them there's other things out there besides the streets."