As youth soccer began to grow across Long Island, Rocco Amoroso became concerned about what he felt was a lack of civility on the playing field.
In 1980, the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) launched its Sportsmanship Program, the brainchild of Amoroso, which was the first of its kind and today continues to award players for playing the game in a civil manner.
Today, the soccer community is mourning the loss of Amoroso, who passed away Thursday at the age of 89. A member of the LIJSL Hall of Fame and Eastern New York Hall of Fame, in 1998 he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nassau County Sports Commission.
As 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, Amoroso wrote the guidelines, secured initial sponsorship of the program with the Sports Billy organization and promoted the program. He stressed the important role that sportsmanship plays in the development of players.
In 1982 and 1983, the LIJSL sent guidelines of their Sportsmanship Program to every youth soccer association in the United States, spreading it beyond the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA). Many leagues adopted the guidelines and Amoroso promoted sportsmanship at their invitation in Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky and Washington State. The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) adopted the guidelines following a presented he gave to members of the organization Buffalo three decades ago.
In 1983, then-Congressman Thomas Downey, who represented several communities along the South Shore of Long Island, 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.