BOZEMAN — The championship game at Atlanta United FC’s youth soccer camp in Bozeman came down to penalty kicks on Tuesday.
And there was someone special watching from the sidelines: Arthur Blank.
Blank is the owner of Atlanta United, who compete in the MLS, and he was excited to bring his inaugural soccer camp to Montana.
“It’s great to participate and see these kids out here and playing, and it does all the things that are important,” said Blank. “Soccer is a great sport for that, as is football, in terms of kids understanding that they can do more than they thought they could do and understanding the importance of teamwork and understanding the importance of connecting with others. And so we want to foster that any way we can.”
Blank, who also owns the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, came to the camp with his son Josh who is a captain on the Elon University men’s soccer team. The Blanks have two ranches in Emigrant: Mountain Sky Guest Ranch and West Creek Ranch. The Treasure State, especially Gallatin and Park Counties, holds a special place in their hearts.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 1 year old, actually. I spent every single one of my summers since I was a baby here, so it’s been kind of a second home to me,” said Josh.
“When you’re out here, you understand the magnificence of our country and the beauty of this part of the world, and you become very sensitive to conservation and very sensitive to the things that we want to make sure we can do individually and collectively to keep this beauty intact,” said the elder Blank.
The message Blank wants to bring to this youth camp is simple.
“Kids need to spend more time outdoors playing, away from technology and connecting with each other as human beings, as they will find over the period of their lifetime, which give them great happiness is their relationships, family and friends,” Blank said.
For Josh, who will be a senior midfielder for Elon this season, he liked what he saw.
“I’ve seen a lot of talent out here. Obviously in Montana I wasn’t sure if there was a lot of soccer players or if there were fans. But from talking with the kids, they love soccer and watching them play, there is a ton of talent,” said Josh. “Hopefully I’ll see them playing in college one day or for the U.S. or doing great things, whether it be with soccer or other sports, too.”
Arthur Blank’s love for Big Sky Country has brought the Falcons to Bozeman for the past three years and recently to Missoula. And now he’s bringing his soccer team, but it doesn’t stop here.
“I think we are looking for ways that we can activate in a broader sense,” he said. “One of the ideas was that we spend more time doing clinics for coaches around the state, and that’s one of the ways that we can help them continue to support this great sport and great activities.”
Atlanta United FC will hold two more camps in Livingston on Wednesday and Thursday. To find out how to register click here.