Unite Over Lansing United

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Most women look forward to the point in life when they can finally afford the luxury SUV they’ve been eyeing or a cottage on one of Michigan’s beautiful lakes. Gena Sampson and her husband, Jeremy, thought differently when they got to that place in their lives. They shocked their friends and family alike and bought a soccer team. According to ESPN.com, one in five teenagers in this country participate in competitive soccer, so when Jeremy came to his wife with the idea of purchasing Lansing’s first national soccer team, she might have been surprised, but she did not think he was crazy. The couple is considered co-owners of the Lansing United Soccer team and they make all major team-related decisions together. As parents of two, the Sampsons carefully considered the effect a move like this would have on their family and have managed to become even closer because of it. “Since our schedules are so busy between our primary jobs, family activities and the Lansing United, our family cohesiveness has really grown,” Gena says. “It has made our family stronger because this is an endeavor that we all have a passion for. When you love what you do, it makes the hard work much easier to tackle.” It’s obvious when talking to Gena that her heart, along with the entire family’s, were in the right place when they took this risk. When asked why the couple were willing to attempt something new in Lansing, Gena credits their belief in the power of sport at its most basic. “Making a positive difference in the community through soccer,” she said, made up their minds, along with providing “positive soccer role models for kids to look up to.” It is that family-oriented atmosphere that should draw Mid-Michigan families to the United games this summer. With specials like team nights, which allow youth soccer players in for free and post-game autograph sessions, the Lansing United crew has kept their fellow soccer families in mind. The prices are affordable as well, with adult pricing at $5 per person and kids 12 and under only $3. Games are played at the East Lansing Soccer Complex near restaurants like Jimmy’s Pub and Lou & Harry’s, making a family night out a convenient one. Let’s not forget a very important aspect of this whole equation: the players. The team is a member of the National Premier Soccer League, and the majority of its roster members are collegiate athletes. Young men from over a dozen Michigan universities play for the United, including our own Spartan goal keeper, Zach Bennett. The team boasts veteran pro-player Boyzzz Khumalo, originally from South Africa, as well as a few European-born footballers. The goal for most of these players is to maintain or improve their skill level in the collegiate off-season, however, some are past their college days and are looking to be noticed by professional teams. Whatever their motive, you can be sure they’re in it to win it because these players are not being paid, as this would make them ineligible to compete collegiately. With such a wonderful group of young men to inspire, the Sampsons knew they needed a leader who had the players’ interests at heart. Hiring Coach Eric Rudland was the best decision the Sampsons have made in this adventure so far, according to Gena. With an impressive resume, that includes coaching in England and for Spring Arbor University, Coach Rudland has even spent time on staff with the U.S. Olympic Development Program. In a dual role as the team’s General Manager, he is in charge of recruiting the players as well. With the United’s first season drawing to a close in mid-July, around the same time as the World Cup Finals, families would be wise to take part in the wonderful resource the Sampsons have provided our city with. A night out at a United game is definitely something that is not only new, but is sure to be a staple in Lansing for summers to come. Learn more at www.lanunited.com.
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Tags: Lansing United, soccer, sports