Peter Collins, who is credited with expanding the Long Island Junior Soccer League to nearly 1,500 teams, has died at 87.
Collins emigrated in 1957 from Ireland, where he played rugby and soccer. He married his Irish sweetheart Annie, settled in Hicksville and raised four children. He played on a Glen Cove soccer team in the late 1950s and later started a children’s soccer team with St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church CYO in Hicksville.
He became president of the Long Island Junior Soccer League, leading it from 1977 to 2004, where he expanded the teams to 1,475 from 300.
When Collins retired from the volunteer position in 2004, he told Newsday, "I just started out with my children being involved. And I stayed with it because it's what I love."
His daughter, Maureen Brown of Northport, remembers a dedicated and loving father.
“Most people think his biggest love was soccer, but his biggest love was his family,” she said. “We always had dinner every night together, and we always went to church on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Mass, where he was an usher.”
Collins worked for 32 years as a welder for what was then Long Island Lighting Company, and worked evenings doing security at Cantiague Park in Hicksville, while coaching soccer teams that included three of his four children.
His son Michael Collins of California said his father’s drive was amazing.
“I don’t know where he got his energy from,” he said.
While president of the soccer club, Collins began a program for children with special needs, held the first Long Island Junior Soccer League convention and established the Liberty Cups, which are sister sports tournaments held in Russia, Ireland and Italy.
The Plainview home field of the Long Island Junior Soccer Club was named the Peter C. Collins Soccer Park in 2008.
“Peter was my friend and mentor,” Richard Christiano, president of Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, said. “When I became president, I counted on his advice. He was the best to find people that loved to be involved in soccer. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him.”
Kevin McCrudden, founder of Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame and publisher of Soccer Long Island Magazine, credited Collins with bringing soccer to many Long Island communities.
“Mr. Collins is the father of Long Island soccer and largely responsible for the growth of soccer on Long Island and America,” he said.
Peter Collins died early Saturday morning at a Long Island hospice facility, with his wife, Annie, by his side.
He is also survived by son Peter Collins of Pennsylvania , and daughter Beth Collins of Northport and 15 grandchildren.
A wake will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Dalton Funeral Home in Hicksville.
A Mass will be celebrated at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church in Hicksville, followed by a burial at Pinelawn Memorial Park.
Annie Collins is Peter Collins' wife. An earlier version of this story gave the wrong name.