If you were one of the tournament coordinators for the Long Island Cup, or a member of the LIJSL Board, or one of the many volunteers that made the whole season-long tournament happen, you couldn’t have asked for much more this past weekend – perfect weather, competitive soccer, and a great family atmosphere. And if you looked at the faces of the athletes as they came off the field and received their medals, you would have to think that the kids were thinking the same thing.
The 2012 Long Island Cup culminated with 136 boys and girls teams, in every age group, at all ability levels, playing in the championship finals at the Stony Brook Soccer Complex. For LIJSL President Addie Mattei-Iaia, it was an example of everything that is good about youth soccer on Long Island.
“This event is truly the purest example of the league’s philosophy,” Mattei-Iaia said on Saturday. “We’re for every level of competition, and this tournament is for every team, all levels, all abilities. Looking at the faces of the players who all made it here to the finals is a real treat, and really tells the story of our league. They are all winners. To me, this is what the Long Island Junior Soccer League is all about.”
What is really amazing is that for a tournament of this scope, the event seems to go off without a hitch year after year. When players, coaches, and parents can just show up and focus on soccer, that’s a real testament to the planning that goes into an event like this. First-year Chairperson Holly Maresco and her husband Anthony lead a dedicated team of volunteers to pull it all off.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes prior to the start of the tournament, and Anthony and all our volunteers who help put the schedule and everything else together, we couldn’t do it without them,” said Holly. “But then each round ultimately leads up to this wonderful weekend, and this seems to run itself when we get here. That’s because of the efforts of so many, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Anthony, who has been part of the organizing staff for the LI Cup for several years, agrees and points to the end results as a mark of the success of the tournament.
“We start in November,” he explained. “There’s a tremendous amount of planning that goes into this, and you have to have a great team of people behind you to make it all happen. Creating the schedule alone is a huge undertaking.
“But the finals have become a seamless event where the kids can just walk on the field and play,” he added. “They come here and have a good time and enjoy themselves. That’s what makes all the work worthwhile to me.”
We asked the Maresco’s what they think the key is to making the LI Cup such a successful, long running event.
“Oh, it’s the kids,” said Holly. “The kids really thrive on the win or go home nature of the event. With each win, they seem to work harder and train harder, and for those who have been here before, this is a great venue and a great environment for the finals. Kids want to come back here to be a part of this. They get so excited about the competition, and that’s what makes it work.”
“The key is the children,” he said. “We started with 1,447 teams and we get down to this weekend with 136 teams in the finals, and our goal is to make it a special experience for every one of those kids on every one of those teams. There’s a lot of parity in the tournament, and a lot of good, clean competition, right down to and including the finals. In my mind, when you have that, everyone walks away a winner, and in the end, the kids just really enjoy themselves.”
All of that under sunny skies. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.