For more than 30 years, Gregg and Diana Knight of Merrick have been involved in youth soccer on Long Island.
In 1987, Gregg Knight started coaching at the youth level when his daughter, Jennifer, began playing soccer for Merrick PAL at the age of five. The Knights were also an integral part of Merrick PAL soccer during the 1990s with Gregg serving as president and Diana holding the registrar position.
Now, the Knights are being honored by the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association as its Personalities of the Month for March.
With March birthdays one day apart — Diana on March 24 and Gregg on March 25 — the two have known each other since they were students at what was then known as Merrick Avenue Junior High School (now Merrick Avenue Middle School). As a ninth grader, Gregg was active in sports and Diane, then an eighth-grader was a cheerleader.
“We were responsible for a bunch of things in addition to the registration of teams and players,” Diana Knight recalls about the couple’s time with Merrick PAL. “We also formed a committee to institute a Sportsmanship Program in which we designed a Code of Ethics for both players and parents that needed to be completed at registration. Nassau County PAL liked it so much, it’s on all of their applications countywide and we’re very proud of that.”
Over the years, Gregg would coach his son, Bryan, when he played travel ball with the Merrick Magic. The Magic were one of the top teams in New York during the 1990s, winning the Eastern New York’s State Open Cup twice, the Region 1 Premier League and Tampa Bay Sun Bowl.
His involvement in soccer stretched to the Long Island Junior Soccer League. From 2000 to 2008 he served as a trustee on the LIJSL Board of Directors. Gregg also volunteered as ENYYSA vice president from 2002 to 2009, as a member of the Premier League Committee from 2006 to 2011 (serving as its Director in 2009) and continues on the State Cup Committee to this day.
In 2014, Gregg was inducted into the LIJSL Hall of Fame and a year later into the Eastern New York Hall of Fame.
Diana was also active beyond Merrick and worked for the Long Island Soccer Referees Association.
“As a stay-at-home mom and the Merrick PAL registrar, I was at the LIJSL office in Plainview and would volunteer to help with any of their projects such as division coordinator, State Cup, Waldbaum’s Challenge, etc,” she said. “As LISRA’s office is inside the LIJSL office, assignor Nanci Apostolides believed that as long as I was always there, I should come work for her.”
She stayed with LISRA until Long Island Junior moved its offices to Ronkonkoma. With the new location proving to be a long drive for Diana, she began working with the ENYYSA at its office in Rockville Centre. She is in charge of risk management, background checks, concussion awareness, insurance certificates and its relationship with the Eastern Development Program (EDP).