New York Youth Soccer Spotlight: Youth Soccer Club HBC Rovers Give Everyone a Lesson in Sportsmanship
When winning isn’t as important as playing a good game — Their opponents showed up with only nine players so they fielded only nine players too.
How many times do we approach a game as if it was the World Cup final and winning was everything?
When this happens in youth soccer, it is sad, especially if the battle is unfair before it has begun.
On the pitch, adults are teaching children and in this one special spotlight, a great lesson in sportsmanship was given in place of the lust of victory.
As Long Island soccer fans know, the longtime slogan of the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) is “Building Character Through Soccer.”
The slogan comes from the LIJSL Sportsmanship Program, which was created nearly four decades ago by now US Soccer Life Member Rocco Amoroso.
In 1980, Rocco was concerned about the lack of civility that he witnessed on youth soccer fields so he started this program in which each match referee grades LIJSL teams about the cooperation of players, coaches and spectators, overall game conduct and player appearance at the conclusion of every LIJSL game. The teams receiving the most sportsmanship points in each division are honored by the league and given Sportsmanship patches, that they proudly wear on their shirt sleeves.
This Sportsmanship Program is so ingrained in the culture of the LIJSL that many teams want to win Sportsmanship as much as their division title and is one reason for the longevity of many LIJSL refs.
One Sportsmanship-winning team is the Huntington Boys Club (HBC) Rovers and it’s easy to see why by their actions last Sunday, November 11. Their opponents, the Elwood LI Sound, arrived at the HBC Soccer Park in Melville with only nine players for the Boys-Under-13 Division 6 East game. HBC had 14 players.
Rather than play 11 vs. 9, HBC coaches Mike Martin, Sue Stewart, Julie Thayer and Dave Bobker did the very sporting thing and only fielded nine players, leaving five players on the bench that they rotated in as substitutes.
Playing 9 vs. 9 on a large field, there were several breakaways but keepers Noah Tognon (played first half) and Danny Anderson (second half) from HBC and Jake Amend (entire game) of Elwood were outstanding, making numerous saves. 11 vs. 9 could have been a mismatch but 9 vs. 9, it was a very competitive match. Many thanks to the HBC team who gave everybody a life lesson in fair play.
Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association: 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) reaches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with nine 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.