Father’s Day was all the more special for Lansing United head coach/GM Eric Rudland last Sunday.
Rudland shared the sideline with his father, Ron, on Father’s Day for the first time during United’s 4-0 victory over the Minnesota United Reserves. Soccer is a game that has helped shape both of their lives, and to be able to coach with each other was as close as it gets to a defining moment.
“The more time we spend together, the better,” Eric said. “It’s special to be able to hangout and spend time with him and talk about soccer and life.”
It’s not often that the Rudlands sit on the same bench. Both Eric and Ron coach in the fall, causing their schedules to frequently overlap. Since Lansing United plays its matches in the summer, the Rudlands are able to join forces when they otherwise couldn’t.
“He typically can’t see my team play and I can’t come see his play, so for us to be able to be together right now, we can share ideas and we’re comfortable with each other,” Ron said. “It’s a good union.”
It’s a union that began when Ron helped spark Eric’s interest in the sport.
After graduating from Carman-Ainsworth High School, Ron enrolled at Olivet College and played on the school’s very first soccer team. He then spent time as a wrestling coach before accepting a teaching job at Western High School in Parma, where he was asked to start the soccer program. He’s been the coach ever since.
Eric was a talented soccer player himself, starring at Western High before heading out to Washington to play for coach Cliff McGrath at Seattle Pacific University.
“When Eric got to be in seventh grade we took him over to Kalamazoo to play for Mike Garrett, who used to coach the Kalamazoo Kangaroos,” Ron said. “I wanted him to have a chance to work with somebody who was more skillful than me on the ball.”
Ron stayed involved, though, and also coached Eric’s club team once he got to Western High. The two shared countless experiences through the sport, including a trip to Bolivia and three trips to Europe.
Eric, a former head coach at Spring Arbor and assistant at Madonna and Albion, said that the lessons he learned from his father growing up have greatly helped him as a coach today.
“Something my dad has always done a good job with has been getting guys to come together as a group,” said Eric, who is 15-3-6 all-time as United’s coach. “He’s taught me to always be a student of the game. Constantly seeking new information and things like that is what he does extremely well.”
While Ron has been a coach for more than 30 years, he is quick to point out that he can always learn more about the sport through his son’s experiences.
“He had a chance to go play in Seattle and he’s been in Olympic Development Program camps,” Ron said of his son. “When he was over in Europe we would be talking and he came back with information that he saw over there. It’s a constant exchange of ideas based on our experiences.”
Then there’s the lessons Eric has learned from his dad about fatherhood, which transcend everything they’ve accomplished on a soccer field. While Ron was there to help Eric on the sidelines, Eric’s 6-month-old daughter, Myla, was cheering her proud father on from the stands.
Soccer was the theme of Father’s Day, but it was much more than that for the Rudlands.
“I don’t know if she’ll ever play soccer, but I just want to support her,” Eric said. “That’s what my dad did for me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that support.”