BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – When the Kokomo Jackrabbits arrived in the City of Firsts last summer, one of the biggest obstacles was housing the players. Host families were needed to provide a place to stay for the college players during the 60-game summer schedule. Thanks to Crystal Sanburn, host family coordinator for the Rabbits and operations manager for Municipal Stadium, the program was a success and all players were cared for.
“We had a fantastic response for the Jackrabbits last year,” said Sanburn. “It was much easier to find homes this year because so many came back.”
Now in its second year of operation, the Jackrabbits will once again need host families for its players. But first, Sanburn has a more pressing need – she is also in charge of finding homes for the newest sports team to call the stadium home – the Kokomo Mantis FC soccer team of the Premier Development League. The Mantis, owned by MKE Sports & Entertainment – which also owns the Jackrabbits – will launch its inaugural season in mid-May, slightly before the baseball season.
“With two teams, we need that many more host families, but I know Kokomo is a caring community and we will find enough,” said Sanburn. “What people need to know is that these are high-quality kids from around the United States – and maybe internationally – who are mainly collegiate students.”
Sanburn said she is hopeful the large soccer community will embrace the Mantis players much like the baseball community did for the Jackrabbits players last summer. The soccer squad will consist of 18-24 collegiate-aged players. Host families can host multiple players, and she stressed that the team is on the road for half the season, so they will not be in the home every night. The soccer season is also shorter than the baseball season, and will be over by mid-July.
“There are only seven home games, and since PDL games are further away, travel times are longer than in baseball,” explained Sanburn. “The kids will be gone more than they are with the Jackrabbits. It is just a great opportunity to see someone play and try and get to the next level.”
An added incentive is host families will receive tickets to each home game for all occupants of the home and a 25 percent discount on Mantis merchandise.
“It is just another cool thing for the city to be part of,” said Sanburn. “Soccer has grown so much in Kokomo. With the Kokomo Soccer Club and other clubs; what a huge opportunity for our kids to watch Mantis players.”
The top developmental men’s league in North America, the PDL features 73 teams within four conferences across the United States and Canada. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world.
Kokomo will compete in the Central Conference. The Mantis will play in the Heartland Division with teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and a pair of teams from Canada: Manitoba and Ontario. The Great Lakes Division includes teams from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario. PDL teams are located in 31 states and Canada.
For more information on hosting a Mantis player, contact Sanburn at (317) 694-0837 or firstname.lastname@example.org.