The program was begun in the early 1980’s to address concerns that as the League continued to grow and play at higher levels of competition, it remained focused on its’ mission to develop mature adults and responsible citizens through the lessons of teamwork and fair play.
The first program of its kind, not just in youth soccer, but in youth sports the world over, it was the brainchild of Rocco Amoroso. He wrote the guidelines, secured the initial sponsorship of the program and tirelessly promoted it, all as a volunteer.
Word of the program spread, first locally and then nationally with Rocco speaking about sportsmanship wherever he traveled. In October of 1983, Thomas Downey, Congressional Representative for the 2nd District, entered the name of the Long Island Junior Soccer League into the Congressional Record, mentioning the program’s motto of, “Building Character Through Soccer.”
Following the completion of every league game, the assigned match referee submits sportsmanship ratings for both teams. The teams receive ‘ratings’ (points) for Coaches, Players, Spectators, as well as overall game behavior, in addition to (uniform) appearance.
At the end of each season – spring and fall – a team in every division is chosen as the sportsmanship winner based on the cumulative season points they’ve received.
Winners are recognized as the coach receives a team plaque and every player a sportsmanship award patch – the only patch players may wear on their uniform other than their club badge.
After 40 years, the LIJSL Sportsmanship program continues to underscore and promote the leagues’ core values. The program’s guidelines have been adopted by affiliates of both US Youth Soccer (the Rocco Amoroso Sportsmanship Trophy is now given annually at the National Championships) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). In addition, the principles of the program have been incorporated by youth leagues in both Ireland and the Republic of China. It’s no wonder that the LIJSL takes great pride in the Sportsmanship Program.