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Greater Lansing Open Soccer provides outlet for adult players who love the game

Dean Jong

Organized soccer games and leagues are everywhere - for kids. The offerings slim down to nothing for adults who want to play recreationally in organized soccer. And that’s where Dean Jong found his calling - providing soccer for Lansing-area adults.

Dean Jong grew up loving soccer, playing until ACL injuries ended his career in soccer. But his passion for the game didn’t pass, and he still wanted to play an organized game for fun.

Jong continued playing soccer as a student at MSU earning his master's in Collaborative Music, in pick-up settings such as IM and student group chats but craved a more authentic experience.

Which is why Greater Lansing Open Soccer (GLOS) matters so much to Jong and other rec players in the greater Lansing area. GLOS, which is now owned by Jong, has provided former advanced players and beginners alike the opportunity to participate in full-fledged 7v7 games since 2021.

It’s the outlet adult rec players craved. This past year, GLOS set a record, with a new record 37 registered teams for their outdoor leagues and 18 registered teams for their indoor futsal league which takes place November through April. Players can register for both indoor and outdoor leagues, and can play in any of the leagues they are deemed fit for.

Archer Guanco
Dean Jong
Archer Guanco

“That's a big part of why I started the leagues,” said Jong. “When I was just playing, I wanted some quality leagues for a better experience for the level at what I was doing,”

In 2005, Jong assumed responsibility for his Lansing based pick-up group as the lead organizer. Becoming a prominent figure in the soccer community, after over a decade of part-time experience organizing soccer games and playing in different leagues.

These experiences gave Jong the perfect opportunity to master the craft of making an enjoyable experience for everyone in pick-up scenarios. Something he still carries over to GLOS to this day.

“(When) I make my teams. I make sure that they're pretty balanced and that they have good rotations so that everyone gets a fair shot at playing,” Jong said. “It's not just you standing around for 15 minutes to half an hour, waiting for your shot to play for a whole minute, and then you lose your game.”

After forming GLOS in 2019, Jong took a leap of faith after three years of building the orginization, quitting his job as a music director, spending his life savings on full-sized soccer goals and other soccer equipment, and turning GLOS into a business. He took the first step, turning his true passion into a living.

“Piano was always more of a hobby for me. It wasn't my passion,” said Jong, “I still really enjoy it, I enjoyed living as a musician, but soccer was always the main biggest passion of my life. Whenever I played, at any point in my life, including now, is when I feel the best, when I'm happiest.”

Archer Guanco

GLOS currently provides five different leagues for their players, with games being held once a week. Each league consists of 6-15 teams with each team having 9-14 players on their roster. Matches are held at Frances Park for outdoor games and the Don Johnson Field House for futsal games.

The Open co-ed league matches take place on Mondays, the Premier League plays on Tuesdays, the Men’s Open League takes place on Wednesdays, the Beer League is on Fridays, and the Futsal League takes place on Sundays.

A single game costs $10 to play in, for a season the total is $80. New members are charged an additional $20 for waiver fees. Students, teachers, first responders, and military all receive discounts at $65 for the full season, while their waiver fee drops to $10.

But starting a small business is never smooth sailing, especially as a sports league trying to operate at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing mandates were established shortly after plans for GLOS had just been put in place, meaning Jong was forced to come up with a quick solution.

“I ended up doing some soccer tennis tournaments in place of the leagues,” said Jong. “We went out to like local parks and we would play, almost like pickup games.”

Once social distancing restrictions were lifted, GLOS took off, numbers-wise, with 25 total teams looking to play a part in its initial season. Those numbers have grown since, with soccer players from around the area seeking the opportunity to compete again.

A.J. Roberts, 26, has been a part of GLOS for just under a year, discovering the league through his friend. And has since joined the GLOS crew.

Roberts, a native of Vancouver, Canada spent most of his childhood playing competitive soccer thanks to his father’s Jamaican influence and relationship with the sport. As an undergraduate student at MSU, Robert continued to play soccer in pick-up settings, but described the GLOS experience as “unique” to what it provided to players.

Robert is a consistent player in the Premier league, and appreciates the opportunity GLOS provides to keep himself mentally sharp against former high-level, but still quality opponents.

“It makes me feel sharper. And I realize I'm going at full speed and making quicker decisions,” Jacobs said. “On average it's a very, very, very high level. You need to be alert and sharp and play your best game to have a good experience.”

Outside of the Premier league, GLOS offers a variety of different levels of competition both with indoor futsal and outdoor 7 v 7. Their outdoor leagues consist of four divisions, a middle ground open co-ed, a men’s open, the premier league, and an open beer league.

Patrick Jacob, 37, serves as both a player and crew member of GLOS ,having been a part of the league since 2021.

Jacobs, an employee of an Okemos law firm, grew,up with no childhood experience around soccer but fell in love with the sport after a trip abroad in Germany as a young adult.

“When you go overseas to Europe, it's (soccer) a completely different culture than what you're seeing here,” said Jacobs. “I absolutely fell in love with it and I've been in love with soccer ever since.”

Jacob’s experiences playing soccer were few and far between, aside from some small tournaments more focused on the social aspect than the competitive. Jacobs became immersed again, in the competition and the culture, due to meeting his now-wife who played soccer as a youth.

Jacobs and his wife became members of the Lansing Common supporters group, a fan group that supports the local Lansing MPL (Midwest Premier League) team. One of the team's first sponsors was GLOS ,which immediately caught the attention of Jacobs.

When Jacobs first attended GLOS with his wife, they began on the Monday open co-ed leagues, which Jacobs described as a middle ground in terms of competition. Since then, Jacobs and his wife Stephani have joined the Friday social league, the most laid-back of the leagues, and also compete in the premier futsal league because “that's how much we love playing in his leagues.”

“The leagues we competed in, you're competing against some really good players, and then you're playing against people that are very new to the sport,” said Jacobs. “So it's a very, very wide range of talent and skill. And that's absolutely what I fell in love with because it was literally for everyone.”

This medley of not only former high-level soccer players, but also beginners who want to learn the game, provides a perfect opportunity for Jong to implement his coaching background. That he garners from coaching National’s youth soccer teams.

Dean Jong

“You know, he (Dean) really loves to see good competition. And I think that's really what helps a lot of players,” said Jacobs. “He'll even give pointers like he's helped me. He's helped me learn what I need to do out on the pitch or on the court, for example.”

It’s this approach that makes GLOS so endearing to the player. A true “For the players by the players” approach to the league that Jong prides himself on.

“The player experience is the biggest thing… from the stats that we keep track of, like keeper saves, most people don't care but they're essential to the game, and I was always tired of them being overlooked,’’ Said Jong.

So from most valuable keeper to play of the week, Jong does everything in his power to give these Lansing locals the most authentic soccer experience they can get through GLOS.

“I always tell people this like I just want them to show up, play soccer, have fun and I'll take care of all the rest,” Jong said. “It’s Lansing’s League and that's what I intended. That's what I wanted to do. I don't want to just like outsource to some big corporation… This is where I grew up playing. This is what I love to do and this is my home.”

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