New LISFL president Rocco Avallone about the ENYYSA and the LIJSL: “We’re going to try to emphasize a better relationship and try to create some type of a partnership.” (Photo courtesy of Rocco Avallone)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Long-time soccer administrator, coach and attorney Rocco Avallone Thursday night was elected president of the Long Island Soccer Football League by the organization’s board of directors.

Avallone succeeds Gus Xikis, who passed away in April. He voted in unanimously at the LISFL’s Annual General Meeting in Massapequa, N.Y.

His term will be one year, filling out the final year of Xikis’ term.

“I was asked by numerous board members to run to the position and I told them I would do it,” Avallone said. “And then I’ll see how it is after one year.

“Gus always talked about me doing something for the league should he decide to retire. We never expected something like this. This was definitely a shock to everybody.”

Besides dealing with getting the LISFL fall season off the ground amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Avallone’s priorities will be to try to bring the league closer to the Long Island Junior Soccer League and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association.

“We’re going to try to emphasize a better relationship and try to create some type of a partnership,” he said.

“Many players, once they graduate high school, if they’re not going to colleges or they may not be playing on a college team still want to play soccer. I want to be able to give them an opportunity or an option to play amateur adult soccer. And I think we need to get the word out through these youth leagues that their soccer is not over. For many youth players, once they graduate high school, there is an option for them. If we can associate or up partner up with them to let them know that you, a 19-, 20-, 21-year-old player can still play soccer on Long Island and there is an adult soccer league available for that.”

Avallone, 57, understands the youth and adult soccer scenes. He has been involved with the sport for 40 years, as a player, coach, administrator, vice president and general counsel, among other responsibilities. He was a LISFL third vice president and is a vice president with the Eastern New York State Soccer Association and also has been inducted into the Halls of Fame of both organizations.

“Soccer was always that three hours that you can literally forget about all your problems,” he said. “And you think back as if you were 17 years old, even though you might have been in your 20s or even 30s. At that age, you kind of need that.”

He began his soccer journey at Holy Cross High School and started a long-term association with SS Cosma Damiano of the LISFL in 1981.

Avallone really caught the soccer bug when he became a coach in high school. That’s right, a coach

“We had a volunteer as one of the requirements at the high school,” he said. “One of the choices would you volunteer and coach, little kids and that’s what I did. That’s how I really got involved in soccer. I was about 15-16 years old.”

He wound up coaching an Under-9 team at the Auburndale Soccer Club and loved teaching the game and life lessons.

“That’s really what caught my eye to the love of game,” Avallone said. “Being able to coach, teach kids not only about how to play the game, but also a lot about how to deal with adversity and try to take examples of what would happen in a soccer game and use that in real life. I teach that to my kids, especially my son, who I coach, that you will have situations in life that can be analogous to situations in a soccer game or really any type of sporting event. And you have to learn to deal with it and rise above it. Change philosophies in order to defeat your adversary, whatever that is.

“Soccer, it’s your opponent. In real life it could be your boss, it could be your employer to be something going on in the family, that you just need to be able to deal with, adjust and come out of it a better person. I always had that philosophy to the kids at eight-years-old.”

He remembered one game in which his team was losing by three goals.

“We were losing 3-0. No big deal,” he said told his players. “Let’s get back into the game. Let’s figure out what we did wrong. What we did right and Emphasize the positive and try to see if we can come back even if we don’t, that’s okay. But we’re going learn from it. In the next game, we’ll be able to do better. We always had good success. I never had the best players, which was one of my proudest achievements is that most of the teams that I coach were not the A players in that club.”

Avallone eventually joined the Dix Hills Soccer Club and coached Dix Hills Juventus.

“One of my proudest things is that I had players at the age of five-, six-years-old who stayed with me up until the time that they graduated from high school, went to college,” he said. “When I say players, I mean a majority of the players. That team was not the best team in the Dix Hills Soccer Club, initially. I had parents knocking on my doors asking for their son to come and play for me, even though they have been playing for a team for the B team. I never cut a player. I always kept players no matter what their level of play was.”

Dix Hills Juventus won its share of cups and tournaments, Avallone said.

A father of three who lives in Dix Hills, N.Y., Avallone’s day job is as attorney. He is a partner in the law firm of Avallone & Bellistri, LLP in Lake Success, N.Y. The firm specializes in employment law, civil rights, discrimination cases and personal injury.

Avallone started out as an accountant but eventually found his true calling as an attorney.

“The key at the end of the day is sitting back at night by yourself, is watching TV, and you think, ‘You know, I’m happy doing what I’m doing as opposed to doing, ‘I’m making a ton of money but tomorrow I got to do this. I have to do that. I got to deal with these people.’ You don’t get any sleep, always worrying about what’s coming up the next day. So that’s the trick. To me soccer is therapeutic.”

Here are two related stories:

TEMPORARY HOME, SWEET HOMES: LISFL plans Sept. 27 kickoff with Brooklyn, Queens teams playing on LI

REMEMBERING GUS: LISFL plans to name a cup after Xikis