It looks odd, until you think about the big picture.
Chris Dore — the general manager of the facility, which we wrote about in a recent Business of Life profile — said it’s all about maximizing the use of court space at the former Brad Friedel Premier Soccer Academy.
Futsal, which Dore, the boys soccer coach at Avon High School and a former member of the Cleveland Force, said is “the world’s version of indoor soccer,” is played on the two SportCourt surfaces that are also used for hoops and volleyball.
“It’s played with a ball that doesn’t have as much bounce, so the ball is designed to stay on the ground,” Dore said of Futsal.
Dore, a former Bowling Green standout, said playing soccer on a hard surface has perks that give it an advantage over the traditional form of indoor soccer, which is played on a turf field.
“It’s good for kids’ skill development because the ball stays on the ground and it’s not bouncing,” Dore said. “If a ball stays on the ground, they don’t have to look straight down at it because it’s easier to control. Now they can be more comfortable with the ball down at their feet, and pay attention to what’s going on around them.
“Automatically, their soccer IQ is becoming better because they’re more aware of the spaces, where the defenders are coming from. It’s a way for soccer players to develop their skills in the winter time.”
Indoor soccer with walls “is slowly becoming obsolete,” Dore said.
The reason, according to the Avon coach: “It’s a game that became popular in the ’80s and was made popular by the guys who played it in the ’80s.”
Translation: Times change.
That’s why I really enjoyed my trip to the newly opened Lost Nation Sports Park West — which joins the successful Willoughby location under the Lost Nation umbrella. Instead of discussing basketball and soccer, two staples of the Lost Nation complexes, we spent a lot of time on such activities as Futsal, lacrosse, volleyball and flag football.
Mike Srsen, a former Browns chief financial officer who opened the Willoughby complex with the late Patrick Parker 17 years ago, said lacrosse is an increasingly popular sport at his facilities.
“I can tell you when we opened Lost Nation in 1998, lacrosse wasn’t even in our vernacular,” Srsen said. “Now the two fastest-growing sports in the time we’ve run it are Junior Olympic volleyball for girls and for both boys and girls, lacrosse has been the next great hope for average size boys and girls with good hand-eye coordination and aggressiveness.”
Some high school lacrosse teams practice at the Lost Nation complexes, and Mentor Youth Lacrosse books time in Willoughby.
“I see that happening here (in Lorain),” Srsen said.
And if you think indoor soccer is only for kids whose ages are in or near double digits, you’re way off.
“We have a program (in Willoughby) called Little Kickers that starts at 18 months, and we probably run a thousand to 1,100 kids a year through that program,” Srsen said. “It’s four sessions. That’s our minor league system, because if you bring in that young family and you treat them right, now they’re coming up with you as they get older. As long as you treat the customer right …”
Before Srsen could complete the sentence, his business partner, Chris Haas (who also owns All Pro Freight Systems Inc. in Avon), jumped in.
“It’s repeat business,” Haas said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
It’s also about getting kids engaged in sports at an early age.
And it doesn’t have to be football, basketball or baseball.
At complexes such as Lost Nation, there are a bunch of other options.