The soccer community is mourning the loss of the legendary Rocco Amoroso, who was a US Soccer Life Member and inducted into the Hall of Fame of both the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) and Eastern New York for his many decades of volunteering. Rocco also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nassau County Sports Commission in 1998, which is interesting as he lived and worked just over the county border in neighboring Suffolk County.
The LIJSL’s Sportsmanship Program was the brainchild of Rocco in 1980 and is the first program of its kind––not just in the world of youth soccer, but in youth sports. Rocco, a Melville woodworker, had become concerned when he saw a lack of civility on the playing fields. As the LIJSL grew, there was a movement within the league to remain focused on its mission to develop mature teenagers and responsible citizens through the lessons of teamwork and Fair Play. The goal was to Build Character Through Soccer, a sentiment that comes from the Sportsmanship Program and continues to be the league’s slogan and mission statement to this day. With this in mind, Rocco wrote the guidelines, secured initial sponsorship of the program with the Sports Billy organization and tirelessly promoted the program. He stressed the important role that sportsmanship plays in the development of players. The LIJSL Sportsmanship Award is given each season to a team in every division.
In 1982 and 1983, the LIJSL sent the guidelines of their Sportsmanship Program to every youth soccer association in the United States so it spread well beyond the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA). Many of these groups adopted the same guidelines and Rocco promoted sportsmanship at their invitation in Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky and Washington State. AYSO adopted the guidelines after Rocco gave a presentation to AYSO in Buffalo three decades ago.
In 1983, Congressman Thomas Downey entered the name of the Long Island Junior Soccer League into the Congressional Record, mentioning the program’s slogan of Building Character Through Soccer. In addition, the principles of the program have also been incorporated by leagues in Ireland and China.
The US Youth Soccer Association handed out the Rocco Amoroso Sportsmanship Trophy during the Girls-Under-19 national finals to the individual who was the best example of Fair Play during the finals. The Amoroso Sportsmanship Trophy was handed out in 1983 in Boston, 1984 in Dallas and 1985 in Seattle. The Rocco Amoroso Sportsmanship Cup is given annually to men’s and women’s teams in Eastern New York. And New York Men’s-Over-40 teams compete annually for the Rocco Amoroso Cup.
Rocco’s emphasis on sportsmanship changed the fabric of youth soccer in New York, throughout the United States and indeed in other parts of the globe, for the good of the game and the development of the character of its players. An enthusiastic public speaker, Rocco gave speeches on sportsmanship throughout Eastern New York at the meetings of the diverse youth and senior leagues, including annually at the Eastern New York State Adult Soccer Association AGM. Rocco paid for signs which line the touchlines of local soccer fields that say: Fair Play, Please.