Addie Says Farewell
March 16, 2015 | by Ken Ilchuk
Back in December, LIJSL President Addie Mattei-Iaia took the league’s office staff to lunch at Casa Rustica in her hometown of Smithtown in celebration of the upcoming holidays, and as a thank you as she prepared to step down after many years as one of the league’s driving forces. As it inevitably does among those around the game, the table conversation eventually turned to soccer.
Addie pointed out the window to a field across the street. It was where she used to practice with her first team. Like so many of our volunteers, she got her start in the LIJSL as a coach for her son’s team. She told stories about those early days, and how much fun it was to be on the field with the kids and help them learn the game. She soon fell in love with the sport, and continued to work as a volunteer, not only as a way to connect with her own son, but to create opportunities for children in her own community to play.
Then she took it to another level.
In 29 years of dedicating herself to youth soccer on Long Island, Mattei-Iaia touched nearly every aspect of the game. It started in Smithtown, where she continued to coach and then helped co-found the Smithtown Soccer Club. Later, she created, organized, and ran the Smithtown International Tournament that brought teams from around the world to Long Island.
Soon she was volunteering at the league level, where amongst many other things, she served for 25 years as the chairperson of the LIJSL Convention, turning it into a large scale event that became one of the largest and most popular youth soccer events in the country. Addie served on the LIJSL Board of Directors for 18 years, and in 2004 she succeeded Peter Collins as president of the league. Those were big shoes to fill, but in a position that could have been intimidating to many, Addie thrived.
In ten years under her watch, the league’s enrollment grew to over 65,000 players annually, and she increased sponsorships and revenues to support league programs like TOPSoccer, the Scholarship Program, the Player Development Program (which has grown to over 600 members), and more. Addie also spearheaded an agreement with the New York Red Bulls that allowed the LIJSL’s top players to take part in the MLS club’s Regional Developmental School. Then she arranged for the league to pay for those players who qualified; a commitment of tens of thousands of dollars that gave top players a chance to be part of the Red Bulls Academy teams, which many have done, including 12 this year alone. She also made improvements to the Peter C. Collins Soccer Park in Plainview, making it one of the finest soccer only facilities in the region, provided support to families and soccer communities in need after 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, and secured a new office facility for the league.
Addie continues to serve as vice president of the ENYYSA. She has been recognized as an ENYYSA and LIJSL hall of fame inductee, and in 2007 she was honored as the USYSA Region I Administrator of the Year. But in an emotional public goodbye at the annual LIJSL Hall of Fame and Volunteer Awards Dinner last Friday, Addie was typically selfless.
“I want to thank everyone for your support and total dedication to the Long Island Junior Soccer League,” she said. “My life has been abundantly enriched having met and worked with all of you over the past thirty five years. Our league has a long and rich history and I know you will continue to meet the challenges of today.
“The league has been a huge part of my life for so very many years and there will be a period of adjustment for me,” she added. “But as I leave, I assure you that I take away much more than I ever gave.”
New president Anthony Maresco announced at the dinner that the league will name Field 4 at the Soccer Park in Addie’s honor. It’s a fitting tribute to someone who gave so much to the game of soccer and the youth of Long Island.