Lifelong teammates: siblings bond on and off the playing field
On Stands Now
For men’s basketball freshman guard Kade Kager and men’s soccer freshman goalkeeper Lucas Belanger, attending AU is a family affair.
Kager’s and Belanger’s older siblings are both juniors at AU this year and play the same sports that they do.
In Kager’s case, the family factor was a driving force behind his decision to come to AU.
Attending AU meant that he would fulfill his goal of playing basketball at the collegiate level while getting the chance to spend two years at college with his older brother, men’s basketball junior forward Kyle Kager.
“He was the reason I came here,” a beaming Kade said. “It was always my dream growing up: play Division I basketball, even be on the same team as Kyle. The fact that we’re able to do that
here is unbelievable. I’m happy every day.”
For both brothers, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was one thing to attend AU together but to play with each other on the same basketball team was something that they both wanted.
“We always talked about, in high school and middle school, the idea of playing on the same college team,” Kyle said. “For me, I felt like it would be really exciting to play with my younger brother because we had grown up playing on the same teams, even pick-up [games] at a Life Time Fitness down the street [from our house in California], so we knew each other’s games pretty well.”
Although they already spend most of their time together because of the two classes they share and their basketball commitments, which can mean anything from a couple hours of practice to day-long drives for away games, Kyle and Kade still enjoy hanging out with each other in their spare time. After being apart for most of their high school lives when Kyle left for boarding school while Kade stayed at home, they were glad to see each other on a regular basis.
“It might seem weird to a lot of people that we hang out so much, but I haven’t seen him in so long and I’m just excited. I love seeing him every day,” Kade said. “Going to college, getting to spend time with him and being on the same team was kind of like meeting him and having him be my best friend again because we grew up in such different places through high school.”
For Lucas, his older sister and junior goalkeeper Charlene Belanger also had a significant impact sway on his decision to go to AU. While Lucas was still in high school, Charlene told him about the perks of attending a college that was close to home, as well as her favorite aspects of the AU soccer program.
“She liked all the girls on her team, she liked the coaches, she liked where the program was going,” Lucas said. “Basically everything she told me about American was what influenced me to go.”
Charlene and Lucas are both goalkeepers for the AU soccer teams, and their younger sister Madeline, who is a sophomore in high school, is a goalkeeper as well.
“I started playing goalkeeper before them, and my older sister caught on and gave it a shot as well, and we all liked it,” Lucas said.
Like the Kager brothers, whose mom played basketball during her college days, the Belanger siblings were partially influenced by their father, Paul, who played soccer during his time at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
“I don’t think I influenced their decision to play soccer in college as much as influenced their competitiveness, sportsmanship and interest in playing goalkeeper,” Paul Belanger said. “I think they always felt, ‘If my dad could play in college, there is no reason I can’t do it also.’”
Even prior to Lucas’ arrival at AU, Charlene gave him suggestions and tips on how to get by in college and get accustomed to life at AU.
“She helped me schedule my classes and navigate my portal,” Lucas said “She told me to try, in the fall, to avoid 8:55 [classes] because, as easy as they may seem after waking up at 7 a.m. or 6:50 [a.m.] in high school, it’s really hard to wake up for those 8:55s. She definitely gave me a lot of pointers.”
In spite of their differing backgrounds and sports of choice, the Kager and Belanger siblings both have people in their lives that they can all count on to support them throughout their college experiences: their families.
“They [our parents] went to every game this year, except for a couple [of games],” Kade said. “Away and everything, it was crazy. My parents never got to see us play–ever–so they’re like, ‘OK, you’re on the same Division I team, we really want to watch you guys play.’ They went to every single game, which was very impressive and we love them to death. We’re just a really close family.”
The Belanger family, Lucas and Charlene included, also make concerted efforts to watch everyone’s games, including their youngest sister Madeline’s soccer matches.
“They [our parents] come to all the home games and some of the away games,” Lucas said.
“Whenever I have the opportunity to go home, [I watch] my younger sister. She still plays on the weekend, so a lot of times I’ll be free. I went down to Richmond a couple of weeks ago to watch her play.”
The Belanger family sees the closeness of AU to their hometown of Alexandria, Va. as an significant aspect of Charlene’s and Lucas’ college experiences.
“The proximity of AU to our home is very important to us as a family,” mom Lorraine Belanger said. “We think they are just far enough away to be on their own but close enough to come home when they need to by either hopping in Charlene’s car or taking the metro; and we are close enough to get there if we need to and are able to see many, many more games than we would if they were somewhere else.”
With the end of their first year together at AU coming to a close, Lucas and Charlene found that having someone to count on living just minutes away has been a welcome opportunity.
“At AU we see a deeper friendship between them and we see them support each other in ways that as parents, we cannot,” Lorraine said.
Kade’s and Kyle’s experience of being at AU together has not been far off from Lucas’ and Charlene’s.
“I obviously love him [Kade] to death–he’s my brother,” Kyle said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better than having him as a teammate.”