Service to Youth Award: Joseph Della Penna & Biff Sturla
The Service to Youth Award is one of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer's most prestigious honors. It is awarded to individuals who, over a period of years, have made outstanding contributions to youth and the sport of soccer. Awardees must have dedicated their time on and off the field to instilling the principles of good sportsmanship, developing youth in soccer, and promoting soccer within Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer and its leagues and teams.
This year’s recipients of the Service to Youth Award are Biff Sturla and Joseph Della Penna. Both men will be honored at the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Annual Awards Banquet Saturday, February 24 at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.
Tickets to the event can be purchased here.
“Biff and Joe have combined for more than 70 years of service to youth soccer,” said Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer CEO Chris Branscome. “Their influence can be found at all levels of the game. They’ve done so much to better soccer as coaches, administrators, players and, in Joe’s case, as a referee.”
Biff Sturla’s name is synonymous with Lower Merion Soccer Club and with good reason. Sturla has spent 36 years as a coach and administrator for the club he played for in his youth (when it was known as Gladwyne Soccer). As Vice President from 1987-1999, Sturla oversaw the merger of four clubs—Gladwyne, Penn Valley, Wynnewood and Narberth—to become Lower Merion Soccer Club. He has been on the board since 1983 and has served as President since 1999. All the while, Sturla continued to have tremendous success on the sidelines. He has led eight different teams to Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup titles and has won 13 in total—coaching with LMSC and FC Delco—to go with three US Youth Soccer Region I Championships. Sturla, a graduate of Hobart College, where he played soccer, coached with Eastern Pennsylvania ODP and served as a coaching instructor for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Coaching Education.
As a referee, Della Penna rarely seeks out specific leadership positions. He likes to officiate games and stay in the background. The problem is he’s so well-respected that people keep turning to him for guidance. For more than 35 years, Della Penna has officiated soccer games, some at the highest levels of the sport. Della Penna has refed international friendlies, the U.S. Open Cup Final, the U.S. Amateur Cup Final and four NCAA Championship games. He currently serves as the assignor for the NCAA East Region and as the Director of Officials for the Major Indoor Soccer League. Della Penna has also been instrumental in the youth game. He served as the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer State Youth Referee Administrator for 10 years. As a U.S. Soccer Federation Instructor, he mentored numerous young referees, some of whom have gone on, like Della Penna, to officiate national finals. Della Penna got his start in soccer at the Lighthouse Boys Club, where he played for U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Jimmy Mills.