Malvin Carrion has been helping athletes for years.
And he’s done it in a variety of ways.
Now Carrion is the girls basketball coach and athletic director at Samuel Fels High School, and in that role, he teaches his inexperienced team the fundamentals of playing the game. He also helps the other coaches at the school get whatever they need for their athletes.
But before he was calling substitutions or ordering uniforms for the Panthers, he was a huge asset to athletes all over the Public League, as well as the Catholic League, starting in 1999 when he became the athletic trainer for Temple University, which had the contract for the Philly high school sports leagues.
Back then, he was driving all over the city to offer tips and help athletes get back on their feet if they were injured, and he also told kids when they needed to get further evaluation for their injuries.
“I worked there for 19 years under Jimmy Rogers, and somewhere in the mid- to late 2000s, I became the lead outreach,” said Carrion, who grew up in Feltonville and attended Mastbaum. “You would go all over the city, I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of great people in that role.
“Jimmy was incredible, if he would send someone to the hospital because he believed there was a tear, they might do an MRI just to see what they were dealing with, but they knew there was most likely a tear because he was so good at his job. I learned a lot by working with him all those years.”
While most of Carrion’s career was with Temple, he also had some pretty cool gigs before he came home.
He had an internship with the Atlanta Braves in 1995 when they went on to win the World Series. He got another internship his senior year working with the Miami Dolphins, who were coached by former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.
“It was amazing to see the skill level at that level, the dedication, the time, the effort performing at such a high level,” Carrion said. “At Temple, John Chaney’s teams were always either A10 champs or runners-up, and always in the tournament. Atlanta was always in the playoffs, they had John Smoltz and all those great pitchers. And Miami had the coach for Dallas, they were very good, too. To see the dedication to be a professional athlete, week in and week out, it was a great experience.”
Carrion could have honed his craft anywhere, but his heart was always in Philadelphia.
Not only was his family here, but so was his then-girlfriend, now wife, Jeannette Carrion.
“She’s one of the reasons I stayed in Philly and came back to Philly,” said Carrion, who now has two children with her, Julian and Gabrielle, who are both juniors at Northeast. “I met her after my internship and fell in love. She’s also a Philly girl, she’s from Summerdale, and her family is here.”
But he couldn’t have been happier coming back to Philadelphia, a place that has always been his home.
“I’m a city kid,” Carrion said. “It was the love of the city, my parents were still here, my whole family was here. I missed the city. It was an amazing experience but I’m a family-oriented person, I love being around family and friends. When you’re not here, you struggle during the holidays, especially, you’re not with family and friends to share those experiences. I’m a Philly guy, I came back here and when I got here, I started working with Jimmy Rogers.”
It’s hard to put into words how important the athletic trainers were to the Catholic and Public leagues. Whenever a player was injured, the Temple Sports Medicine trainers would stop by and give the player a quick checkup. They would go from school to school to school, so that meant a lot of traveling and seeing a lot of patients.
For Carrion, it was the perfect job.
“You go all over the city,” Carrion recalled. “I’ve been blessed, I worked at multiple levels, but I felt at home working with the Philly athletes. Jimmy Rogers is an amazing individual, his knowledge of orthopedic and sports medicine is as good as the surgeons I’ve been around. He can recognize injuries, interact with student-athletes and parents and start the rehab process, it was a world of experience working with him.
“It was hard just trying to keep up with the daily schedule, bouncing from school to school to school, and all the schools I worked with, the staff, the coaches, the athletes, and they were happy and appreciative of the help. It was busy but a great job.”
Eventually, Temple stopped funding the trainers, which meant Carrion’s job was eliminated. He could have found another job in sports medicine, but he chose to help student-athletes in a new way. He became a teacher.
“I don’t like reporting to an office, I like being part of a team, that’s always been my passion and still is to this day,” Carrion said. “Once that avenue closed, I decided to move into the teaching realm and I love being here. I love being at Fels.”
He started out as a health and physical education teacher, and shortly after he arrived at the school, he ran into his old friend Mark Heimerdinger, whom he worked with when he was a trainer and Heimerdinger was at Cardinal Dougherty. They had a great relationship then, and when he was looking for a job, the two reconnected.
“We worked really well together,” Carrion said of Heimerdinger, the former athletic director at Fels. “I had the pleasure of meeting when he was still at Dougherty when they were an elite program in the Catholic League. We did work together. He was a mentor of mine, taught me so much when I got here, seeing the way he coached, the way he related to his players. He was a tough, tough person, but a fair person at that. I learned a lot from that, coaching and teaching.”
As athletic director, Heimderdinger needed a girls basketball coach and he found the perfect candidate in Carrion.
“Since I became AD in 2010, the responsibility of AD had increased and that’s before COVID started,” Heimerdinger said. “Malvin’s people skills, dedication and organizational skills make him an outstanding athletic director. He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met and I’m proud to call him a friend.”
The friendship has been mutually beneficial, and Carrion is happy to have learned from the previous athletic director, and now proud to carry on his legacy both as an AD and coach.
“It’s been fun,” said Carrion, who replaced Heimerdinger as athletic director midway through the 2020-2021 school year. “My first year here, it was nerve wracking. Most guys start as a JV coach or volunteer, and I’m the varsity head coach. But I had a returning core of seven players, we made the playoffs and won a game. It’s been a struggle because of the pandemic, we have reduced numbers, but it’s fun and learning and challenging.
“This is what I love, the inner-city kid has always been my passion, even early years in college. I think these are the most needy kids, these kids don’t have support outside of school setting. I like to help these kids, my door is always open and many are still contacting me over the past couple years.
“I am a strong believer in the Philadelphia Public League, the Philadelphia school district and the archdiocese. They are the building blocks, they’re the foundation. Not just the public schools, all the schools. The services both systems provide is tremendous.”
And he’s able to continue to be a mentor to those who need them, a job he started when he was still working in sports medicine.
“Looking back now as an athletic trainer, I can remember at least 10 to 15 players where they didn’t know this avenue existed, they thought to stay in athletics, you had to go into communications or coach,” Carrion said. “So I taught them about the sports medicine avenue. It was a great career. Now I’m working at Samuel Fels and it’s been great. I’ve been blessed.”