I had the opportunity to spend some time today with the former UConn Head Coach Joe Morrone, and it triggered some thoughts that as time goes by, I think, sometimes escapes people.
Coach Morrone's influence on Soccer goes far beyond just the UConn Soccer Program. Coach did a fantastic job of building our program piece by piece. He was a visionary, someone who fought the battles 30 years ago when Soccer wasn't as popular in this country or in the Athletic Department. Coach has a deep passion for the sport. Through his perseverance and hard work he was able to accomplish so much.
But sometimes I think how greatly he influenced soccer at the collegiate level nationwide. Some of his concepts that later were used around the nation:
1) Inter-regional matches - when top opponents from one area of the nation would travel to play top opponents from another part of the country
2) Charging admission for matches
3) Having a year round program which consisted of an indoor season with indoor tournaments and a spring season where you would train regularly and face other teams in friendlies.
4) Establishing the Friends of Soccer, a group of supporters that would help to raise money for the program as well as assist in other areas of team development
These are only some of the areas where Coach Morrone was innovative. He also influenced countless coaches with his work ethic, his pursuit of excellence and his high competitive drive. Coach produced so many great players at UConn, as well as top level coaches who would go on to coach when their playing days were complete.
I remember driving up as a player at Southern Connecticut to watch "soccer Sunday" against Indiana, San Francisco, St. Louis and Alabama A + M, the crowd would be at 6,000 to 8,000 people. The atmosphere for his players to compete in was unbelievable.
Coach influenced other areas, like NSCAA, CJSA and NISOA. However, his best work was turning a state university up in the northern section of Connecticut into a soccer hotbed. In an era where so many young people don't pay attention to legacy and history, this man should be paid the utmost respect. His efforts, vision and commitment shaped the game in this country. The stadium he built in Storrs influenced many other schools to build their own to keep up with the Huskies.
Coach may have retired from college coaching a few years ago, but every time our team walks into the stadium named after him to play a match, I say to myself, thank you for all your efforts. Coach Morrone's a legend and an icon in the game, and we should never forget that his efforts paved the way for coaches like myself to benefit. I can only hope when I leave the University of Connecticut I have impacted my players and the sport half as much as he did.
Coach Morrone, thank you for all you have done for UConn Soccer and the game in America.