By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
September 19, 2017-One man had an idea and the rest became youth soccer history. Back in 1980, concerned with poor behavior at youth soccer games, now US Soccer Life Member Rocco Amoroso created the Sportsmanship Program for the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL), the largest league in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA).
Rocco understood that only one team can win the game but both squads should respect others while having fun and soccer games became kinder and gentler as soon as the program kicked off.
Rocco was given the nickname of Mr. Sportsmanship as he wrote the guidelines, secured the initial sponsorship of the program and tirelessly promoted it, all as a volunteer. He stressed the important role that sportsmanship plays in the development of a player’s character, which led to the LIJSL adopting “Building Character Through Soccer” as its longtime slogan. The program spread nationally as the LIJSL sent the guidelines of its Sportsmanship Program to every youth soccer association in the United States plus Rocco traveled across the country, speaking about sportsmanship wherever he went until his passing last year at the age of 89. The LIJSL’s Sportsmanship Program was even copied by groups in China and Ireland.
After every LIJSL regular season game for nearly four decades, the match referee grades each team. The ref rates each squad from 0 to 10 points each on the Cooperation of Players, Cooperation of Coaches, Cooperation of Spectators and Overall Game Conduct plus 0 to 5 points on Player Appearance. If a team has a player sent off or three players cautioned, they receive no points for that game which virtually prevents them for winning the Sportsmanship Award that season.
The points are tallied by LIJSL volunteers under the direction of Sportsmanship Chairperson Rich Baroniunas and the sportsmanship winners in each division are honored and receive a sportsmanship patch, which they proudly wear on the sleeve of their uniform. The Sportsmanship Program is a massive volunteer undertaking as an estimated 380,000 soccer games had the refs rate each team plus league volunteers add up the points and give awards to one team per division since 1980.
Teams often care as much about winning their division’s Sportsmanship Award as they do their division title so coaches and players will log on to the LIJSL website, http://www.lijsoccer.com/pages/index.php, and see what the division standings are for sportsmanship points as well as wins, losses and ties.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.