Heading into his senior year of college, South Philly native Mister Mann Frisby could have easily spent the summer of 1996 chillin’. After escaping the city’s notorious housing projects by getting an academic scholarship to Penn State, the 20-year-old had earned the right to relax. But instead of hitting the clubs with his boys, Frisby was hitting the track with a bunch of 9 and 10-year-olds. “I got bit by the coaching bug,â€ says Frisby, whose Phat Back Athletics track program’s 4×400 relay team broke a national record that summer.
An all-city track and cross-country star at Overbrook High School (also the alma mater of Will Smith and Wilt Chamberlain), Frisby didn’t run in college, but he still felt connected to the sport. After graduation, despite a budding journalism career at the Philadelphia Daily News, he continued coaching. In 2003, after seven years with an existing community program, Frisby started PhatBack. “I wanted a 100 percent, hardcore track club, and I thought the results could be tremendous,â€ he says.