2016 NYSWYSA Young Referees of the Year

Matthew Sperr first became involved in the sport at the age of three, learning first hand the truth behind Winston Churchill's famous quote, "To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often." As he progressed as a player, he soon found that his recreational team was not challenging enough and became a bit of a soccer brat, putting more emphasis on himself and scoring than in helping his teammates. Soon however, he found himself on an ODP team where he quickly learned he was not the best player in the world and it changed his attitude both about himself and the sport that he dominated as a child. That made him realize that the joy both in the game as well as life came from working hard and being open to others' ideas. By the time he was in high school he had become a "teammate" rather than a player and was elected captain of not only the soccer team but also the baseball and basketball teams. Soccer taught him how to communicate, work and be a leader. It was around this time that he became a referee and learned how to apply those skills to successfully navigate through difficult match situations. He has given his time as a referee as well as a coach in the Special Olympics program where his primary joy remains seeing the joy on the faces of the players he is working with. He also worked state cup in the first year that he was eligible to officiate at the Final 4.

He applied this work ethic to his studies as well. At Williamson High School, he was on the High Honor Roll every semester, was awarded the Old English award for having the highest GPA in his class 8 times, graduating as the salutatorian. Other awards he has received are the Clarkson Leadership Award, the American Chemical Society Outstanding Student, Morey Wantman Math award, Randy Aceto Memorial Scholarship for balancing athletics with scholarship, the Masonic Lodge 159 Scholarship award, the presidential award for Academic Excellence and the Craig Stritzel Outstanding Athlete award. He is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester, where he as already received an award for Academic Merit for a research project and the Baush & Lomb Honorary Science Award.

All this was not enough for Matt though. In one of his essays he quoted Thoreau... "It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The real question is what are you busy about?" Throughout his years he has dedicated a lot of time to community service and leadership. He has been involved as a sports journalist for his local newspaper for 6 years, a research assistant this last summer at the University of Rochester, a youth camp education counselor for the NYS Department of Environment Conservation, Williamson Link - a group that mentored incoming freshman at high school, UR Foot-guess what, a group that mentors incoming freshmen at college and leads them on "survival camps" and hikes, UR Wilson Service group, the Biomedical engineering society, the Makers Club working with 3D modeling, the Fellowship of Christian athletes, a Eucharistic Minister with the Catholic Newman Community, Masterminds - a trivia team for whom he served as captain, Young Life, and still manages to stay active as an athlete in triathalon as well as intramural soccer and basketball at the University of Rochester.

Quoting one of the his recommendation letters "Matt is a very hard working driven individual, both in his officiating career, his college career and in life in general. It has been a pleasure to be able to work with Matt in the many roles I have over the years, and been able to see him grow on the field into the referee he is today, but also into the young man he is on and off the field."

We agree with that assessment.

Meghan Nally says that soccer has taught her the skills she needed to succeed in life. She started playing recreational soccer at the age of 4 and by the age of 12 was playing on boys travel teams. She has also played in Thruway league with GBUFC. She played high school soccer with Seton Catholic where her team became the Section 4 Class B Champions in her junior year. Soccer was not the only sport she has excelled at however as her high school girls basketball team was the Sectional Champions in her senior year. She also played softball for the Maine Endwell little league for several years. As a referee, she is always working to be fair, in position and correct with her calls. She has done the State Cup final four in her second year of eligibility but was invited in her first year, an invitation she had to decline due to an injury. Academically she was on the high honor roll every quarter for her entire high school career, was a member of the national honor society and several AP awards for history and chemistry. She won her school and county science fairs twice and came in second on another occasion. She also won the Colonel Breen award for service to community and the world and the Kristen O'Neil Scholarship for academic and athletic selflessness and achievement. She is currently at the University of Scranton working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science with a minor in coaching. She intends to continue in post graduate work to obtain a doctorate in Physical Therapy with a specialization in pediatrics.

The awards she has won have not come without hard work however. Meghan has been a vital team member and leader on three trips to Haiti. She is making a fourth trip this December. While in Haiti she cares for orphans, both loving them and providing them with clothes, shoes, books, toys as well as packs and distributes food to the desperately hungry in Citi Sole, the largest slum in this hemisphere; she treks into the mountains to bring food and medicines to people in extremely remote and inaccessible areas; she provides nurturing and comfort to sick and dying babies at Mother Theresa’s hospital for sick babies; she helps build houses for widows who have lost everything and who are still struggling with the effects of the earthquake; she gives shelter to families who would otherwise be homeless. Meghan’s boundless energy and compassion have made her an indispensable member of the Seton team serving the widows, orphans, poor, homeless and hungry of Haiti. She was a member of YES!, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention group organizing educational events; Key Club; Girls Circle Peer Counselor through the Crime Victims Association and God Squad. She also was a planner for the Relay for Life for 4 years; a Dance Ministry troup that performed for masses and in nursing homes; did potato picking for the local food bank; participated in the annual Christmas Tree Decorating which donates those trees to families that could not afford one for the holiday season, the Fall Glow walk to raise money for children with disabilities and was on her school's junior and senior prom planning committees. She also volunteers her time as a coach for the Town of Union Youth Soccer Camps and the CYO girls basketball camps. She has also spent countless hours as a volunteer in the Physical Therapy departments at Southern Tier, Pullano, and Oakdale Physical Therapy as well as at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

She says that soccer has taught her to do whatever was necessary for those she loves as well as her teammates. One of her teachers wrote that "Meghan’s classmates, my fellow teachers, and I will always hold her in the highest esteem. We know her to be an extremely talented young woman who shines with virtue, integrity and determination. I sincerely recommend to you Ms. Meghan Nally as the ideal candidate for your award."

Seeing as she is the one who won the award, you can rest assured that we agree and look for great things from her in the future.