By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
(reprinted from last week’s Freeman’s Journal)
COOPERSTOWN – When the phone first rang, Mike Perrino thought his Cooperstown Youth Football team was in trouble. “They called me down to the Clark Sports Center and said they needed to talk to me,” he said. “I thought ‘Oh no, what did these kids get into?’ I thought something was amiss.”
But instead, director Val Paige had only good news – he was named this year’s recipient of the annual Fetterman Award. “I was speechless,” he said. “They got me!”
Perrino, first senior vice president, product management, at NYCM Insurance in Edmeston, was honored at a luncheon this afternoon at The Otesaga.
Growing up in Riverhead on Long Island, his football coach, Mr. Johnson was a mentor to him. “I was in the front yard playing with my brothers and he drove by,” he said. “He asked my parents if I could join the team, but they didn’t even have a way to get me to the park.”
Mr. Johnson picked him up for practice every day in the back of his pickup truck. “It gave me something to do,” he said. “He inspired me.”
Perrino went on to play football for CW Post Long Island University, where he graduated in 1991. “I had really been missing football,” he said. “Then Bill Senif asked if I wanted to coach with him at the Clark Sports Center.”
That was in 2001, and he’s served as president of the Cooperstown Youth Football League since 2004. He also coached Varsity football at CCS.
“What fills my soul here is seeing the smiles of the kids,” he said. “At the end of the season, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, when they look up at you and smile, it’s such a rewarding feeling.”
And in 15 years, he’s been able to see the impact he’s had on kids, just as Coach Johnson had an impact on him all those years ago. “We won a championship in 2002,” he said. “And a couple years ago, I started getting invited to their graduation parties! I think about what he gave me to me, and it’s all come full circle.”
His oldest son, Michael, 19, played football for the Clark Sports Center and CCS and now plays rugby for SUNY Geneseo. His youngest son, Matthew, 8, is currently on his team. He also has two daughters, Megan, 16 and Danielle, 17. He is married to Colleen Perrino.
The Clark presents the award annually to people “dedicated to serving local youth, especially in the area of athletics. The recipient embodies the meaning of outstanding sportsmanship, inspired leadership and caring service.”