Mixed feelings across LI over Sept. 11 youth games

Coach Brian McCready gives a pep talk to

Coach Brian McCready gives a pep talk to his 9-year-old black Bulldogs team during a practice at Manor Field Park in Huntington Station. (Sept. 9, 2010) (Credit: Newsday/Jessica Rotkiewicz)

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More than 400 youth soccer games across Long Island will mark the beginning of the Long Island Junior Soccer League season Saturday - and each one will begin with a moment of silence.

On the same day, an 11,000-member youth football league will begin its season by collecting money for injured servicemen.

At Central Islip High School, a pre-football game ceremony will honor 1982 grad and former football and lacrosse player Kevin Bracken, a city firefighter and first responder who died on 9/11. A banner displaying Bracken's No. 11 will be hung in the press box in front of family members coming from as far away as Texas.

This year, what is traditionally one of the biggest youth sports Saturdays of the year - the Saturday after Labor Day - falls on Sept. 11, and baseball, soccer, football and other leagues are planning charity work or pausing to remember those who lost their lives.

But not everyone is satisfied: Shoreham resident Mike Williams lost his 24-year-old son Kevin on 9/11, and he says it is inappropriate the North Shore Little League is holding a "trophy day" on the anniversary.

League president Gary Catalanotto said his organization is not being disrespectful, adding that trophy day is always scheduled for the Saturday after Labor Day and the league will observe a moment of silence at the start of the event.

Addie Mattei-Iaia, president of the 75,000-member Long Island Junior Soccer League, said her league never considered canceling Sept. 11 games.

"We would think the members we lost would want us to continue. It doesn't mean we don't remember," she said, adding the league lost 41 parents and coaches in the attacks.

Added David Levine, coach of the league's Merrick Force girls team: "Before the game we're definitely going to be having a moment of silence and we'll be talking to our girls about how important it is."

Lou Bonnanzio, chairman of Suffolk County Police Athletic League Youth Football, said the league will collect donations for the Wounded Warrior Project during its 70 to 80 kickoff games Saturday.

Nassau high school teams playing Saturday will be asked to "provide a moment of silence" before contests, said Todd Heimer, executive director of Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau sports.

Ed Cinelli, executive director of Suffolk's Section XI, said commemoration decisions are left to individual schools.

In Shoreham, Mike Williams had just attended a ceremony marking the new Sept. 11 memorial in Shoreham when he saw a sign announcing a trophy ceremony at the North Shore Little League complex in Rocky Point. He said he was "taken aback" at the date: Sept. 11.

Williams' son Kevin was working for an investment firm in Tower Two when the planes hit. "It's not appropriate," he said. "It's not sending the right message to those athletes."

Catalanotto, 53, of Miller Place, said it is likely that most of his players, ages 6 to 12, "unfortunately" don't know what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It's not up to North Shore to educate them on that," he said, "it's up to their families and the schools to educate them on what took place that day."

John Rovet, coach of the Huntington Bulldogs youth football team, said one reason his team is raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project Saturday is to instill in his players a sense of the importance of the day. "Some of them are so young and they don't really understand it - they weren't born yet."

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