Rathke was Hampton soccer’s 1st standout player
Creating a lasting tradition and making friends that last a lifetime is a good thing, regardless of fanfare or acknowledgement.
Chris Rathke didn’t think he was going to get the call. Not more than 30 years later. Likewise, the Hampton Talbots soccer team in its infancy wasn’t a good thing -- at least on the pitch.
Generations have passed, state championships have been won, and unforgettable memories have been made for countless players since Rathke graduated in 1985. This summer, he will receive the recognition he never needed, but thoroughly deserved as one of the pioneers of Hampton soccer.
Rathke will be inducted into Hampton’s Athletic Hall of Fame on Aug. 31.
“I think as time goes on you’re not going to be remembered as much,” he said. “I’ve been out of school a long time. It’s certainly nice to be recognized.
“We had a bunch of guys that all started at the same time as sophomores, got the chance to grow together and improve together over time. It was a very tight-knit group of players and parents.”
All school boards know, a tight-knit group of sports parents is a force to be reckoned with.
Perhaps none more than Rathke’s mother Vivian, who helped petition the board to start a soccer program so her sons Chris and Jeff (Class of ’87) could play a sport treated as a secondary priority by many schools at the time. Rathke’s father, Jack, made it his priority. Though he worked long hours, he never missed a game.
“It certainly wasn’t as big as it was today,” Rathke said. “One of our struggles as a team is we didn’t have (Class AA and Class AAA). Back then, Shaler would have a thousand kids in their graduation class, and we had a thousand in our whole school.”
That added up to a lot of losing. The team took its lumps, but they were able to score nearly a goal per game just off the foot of Rathke, a forward who led his team in scoring all three seasons, totaling 54 goals in 58 games.
“Chris distinguished himself right away,” said Angelo Albanese, who coached the program its first two years. “He was a great athlete. Baseball, golf, he’s just one of those natural talents that could do anything.”
Albanese was also a three-time All-American at Slippery Rock and former member of the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
“He was only like 8 years older than us. ... We thought we were good until he stepped into practice as a coach,” Rathke laughed.
Rathke could do more than score goals -- he could pass. Albanese recollects his top forward was responsible for scoring or assisting in 78 percent of Hampton’s goals.
And he also had a knack for passing off the pitch -- imparting soccer wisdom that Albanese and other teachers subsequently passed down to him.
“He was probably soccer-wise and also in life a great influence,” said Rathke of Albanese. “He’s a great teacher of the game.”
That shared love for teaching would follow him throughout his lifetime, as he passed down his own soccer traditions to his family and coached his son’s club teams.
“I love the game and enjoy teaching it,” Rathke said. “I enjoy sharing the passion with them. It has motivated me, and given me a lifelong love of the sport.”
After high school, Rathke spent one year at Grove City College, where he led the team in goals as a freshman -- then life called. He hung up the NCAA cleats for a transfer to Penn State, where he earned his degree in broadcast journalism, and later, an MBA at St. Joseph’s.
He resides in the Philadelphia area with his wife, Anne, and has two kids, Chris and Dina. The game never left him. He remains a dedicated fan of the local MLS team, the Philadelphia Union. Likewise, Albanese never left the Eastern Pennsylvania area -- leaving an opening to re-establish a bond from more than 30 years ago.
Albanese is the junior varsity coach at William Tennent in Northern Philadelphia, and also a Union season ticket holder. The former coach and star pupil tailgate regularly and attend games together.
“It’s been great to reconnect,” Albanese said. “Life is funny that way. But it’s a good thing. It’s definitely a good thing.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.