By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
January 25, 2017-Football has the inspirational Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the Notre Dame walk-on who finally played in a game, against Georgia Tech in 1975, and who was the subject of the movie “Rudy.“ But soccer has the equally-inspirational Rudy Lamonica, who died five years earlier. Rudy played on one of Oceanside United’s first boys teams after the club was founded by Joe Goldberg and Ian McDougall in 1962. As a teenager, he scored more than half of Oceanside High School’s goals during 1968 and 1969 in leading the Sailors to consecutive Long Island championships and starred in the indoor tournament that now bears his name, before his untimely death from bone cancer. He is also remembered nearly five decades later for always keeping his spirit high, even when he was sick.
Rudy Lamonica in 1969
What has been also inspirational is what the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) club has done to remember Rudy. Oceanside United plays some of its games on the Rudy Lamonica Memorial Field at Merle Avenue School and awards Rudy Lamonica scholarships every year. But his name will forever be associated with the oldest indoor youth soccer tournament in the United States. 80 teams played in the 50th Annual Rudy Lamonica Indoor Tournament at Coleman Day Camp on January 21 and 22.
It’s ironic that the golden anniversary tourney occurred on the same weekend that the Presidency changed hands as Rudy had received a get-well letter from President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon shortly before his death in 1970.
There to hand out the awards were Jim Volpe, one of Rudy’s friends who is now Chairperson of the Olympic Development Program (ODP) in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), and Rudy’s now 90-year-old mother Bessie. While Jim recalled a very nice and positive young man, Bessie spoke of her son also as a visionary at a time when very few Americans played pro soccer and soccer complexes did not dot the landscape nearly as much as they do now.
“Rudy would say to me, ‘When I make professional, I will earn a lot of money and build one of the biggest soccer complexes to keep kids off the streets and off of drugs,’ “ Bessie explained.
Clockwise from left to right: Floral Park Tomahawks in green and Plainedge Thunder in red during Boys-Under-10 action in the 50th annual tournament. Bessie Lamonica hugging a tournament player. Plaque honoring Rudy Lamonica.
In all 20 divisions, the first and second place teams received medals plus awards for the Best Forward, Best Defender, Best Goalkeeper and the Rudy (for MVP) were given in each division. Nearly $15,000 was raised by the tournament this year for college scholarships for deserving Oceanside soccer players.
“Many came to honor Oceanside United, the tournament, Rudy and Bessie, and the different people being there meant a lot. Their contributions over the years are why we were able to pull off events like these,“ commented tournament director Neil Bloom. “Generations of Oceanside United folks were there, got a chance to see where we are now, and to see how the seeds they had planted have grown.“
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 onto http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.