By Kim J. HarmonÂ
By Kim J. Harmon
Even though he is 57 years old and his four sons have long since vanished from the youth sports scene (the youngest is 24), Pete DâAmico nevertheless is still out there roaming the sidelines for the Newtown Soccer Club.
And there seems to be no end in sight â¦ which will work out quite well for the local athletes because Pete â in addition to running two soccer teams this year â has a vision of one day (very soon) erecting a sports complex in Newtown.
When his kids moved on, no one would have blamed Pete DâAmico for slipping into retirement and focusing more of his energy on his business. But because he stayed on and because he still wants to play a role in the lives of kids in Newtown, Pete DâAmico has been named to the Newtown Sports Hall of Fame.
Soccer Was The Ticket
Pete DâAmico learned the game of soccer back in Italy (without the aid of teams and leagues and parent organizations) and when he and his family came to the United States 43 years ago, it was all he knew.
But back then the sport of soccer was still a bizarre mystery to most Americans â who were far more enamored with baseball. That may have been why Pete first picked up the game of softball and (incidentally) started a nifty career as a pitcher.
âI learned very quickly that no one wanted to pitch. Since I didnât know how to catch, I felt I could do that,â said Pete, who played the game until he was 40 and still fondly remembers his two no-hitters and an 11-inning, 17-strikeout masterpiece.
Pete was also an accomplished volleyball player, playing in high school and college.
Then the kids started coming along, opening up a whole new avenue to his life. Pete and his wife, Marie, have four sons â Peter, now 32; Tom, 29; Matt, 28; and Chris, 24. In 1980, the family moved to Newtown.
The kids started playing Little League baseball back in New Jersey and kept on playing when the family moved to Newtown. A few years later the kids started playing soccer, too, leading to those inevitable times when Pete was heading somewhere to a game and Marie was heading somewhere else to a game.
Pete started coaching soccer in 1983.
âI wanted to give something back,â said Pete. âAll the years my kids were being coached by others, I felt I needed to give something back. I enjoyed soccer and enjoyed kids and felt it would be something good to do.â
After he followed his kids through the program (E Division for 10 years, F Division for four years and then on to travel) and the kids moved on, Pete paused for a moment but soon realized he missed coaching. In 1995, started with the near-legendary Strikers, who started as U10s and amassed a record of 152-16-18 in four years while capturing 10 tournament championships, six league championships, and three State Cup championships (all in the same year).
âIt was phenomenal â¦ unbelievable,â said Pete, who had the benefit of such talented players as Andrew Fiscella, Brian Miles, Devon Manfredonia, Matt Miller and Brian Smith. âWe had a lot of very good athletes and we were able to mold them into a team.â
Pete once asked Matt Miller to go into his room and count how many trophies had on his desk or squirreled away somewhere and the kid found 33 of them.
Now thatâs success.
In his final year with the Strikers (1998-99), Pete â at the behest of several parents, who had kids on the Strikers and other kids moving up to the U10 age level â took on another team. People might have figured that there was no way Pete could come close to matching what he had accomplished with the Strikers, but those people would have figured wrong.
âThe team was just as successful,â said Pete. âMaybe there was not the same athletic ability, but they learned to played even better as a team.â
Oh yeah â the Vipers amassed an equally incredible record of 127-11-16 in three seasons while winning eight tournament championships, nine (of a possible nine) league championships, and three State Cup championships.
On just those two teams, Peteâs coaching record was a staggering 279-27-34.
Thatâs an .821 winning percentage.
âIâve always noticed if the parents get together and work well, the kids will get together and work well,â said Pete. âItâs that atmosphere that I always try to find.â
As if coaching wasnât enough, Pete â who does a lot of business abroad â has taken his teams to Europe twice and while touring countries like Italy, France and Switzerland, the kids have garnered memories that will last a lifetime (such as the fireworks display on the beach in Pisa, Italy).
âI spend probably eight to 10 hours a week on soccer,â said Pete. âThe training, the games, thinking about it. My philosophy is, you stretch to whatever you want to do. I also have a very supportive wife and it would be impossible without that.â
After the Vipers went premier, Pete didnât miss a beat and took on the Rampage and in two short years the girls have put together an 18-3-7 record with two league championships. And while he hopes to achieve more success with them, Pete also has his eyes on a bigger prize.
A sports complex.
It is currently in the planning stages, but Pete has hopes to erect a $4.5 million sports complex (designed by Claris Construction in Bridgeport) that would be run as a non-profit company (thus keeping fees very low). It would encompass four soccer fields (two outdoor, two full size indoor), an outdoor baseball diamond, basketball courts, batting cages and storage facilities. The original idea had been to somehow include the complex in the reshaping of the Fairfield Hills complex, but now â¦ who can be sure?
âThe project will happen,â said Pete. âWhen I put my mind to something, it will happen.â
And what â other than that kind of determination â could be better for the young athletes of Newtown?
To Mr DâAmico and Mr Wolcott â
How do we begin to thank you
For what youâve done for us
Youâve taken us from little boys
And helped us grow up
It all started back in â95
When we were boys U10
You promised us we could be good
If he worked hard and then â¦
You started us with running
And then moved us on to drills
And after lots of practice
We started learning skills
You taught us how to dribble
And how to trap the ball
We practiced at our juggling
Good defense â¦ above all
We played in many tournaments
And lots of local games
We had our share of âindoorâ
And traveling away
You took our team to Europe
And gave us all a chance
To meet kids from other countries
From Italy and from France
The languages were different
The food a little strange
But one thing we did learn
That soccer was played the same
We won a lot of trophies
And plaques along the way
We had a lot of victories
And some that slipped away
You showed us how to love the game
And how to play real tough
You taught us about teamwork
That winningâs not enough
Our parents and our managers
Have helped us out a bunch
Carpools and endless phone chains
And âfruit and cheeseâ for lunch
But as we move on in our lives
Some things just have to change
We have to say goodbye to some
Who have helped along the way
We wonât forget our coaches
Youâve taught us all so much
and Working Hard
We cannot say enough
In closing, letâs say Thank You
Or this will never end
Youâre more than just a
coach, you know
No coach, you are a friend