September 30, 2014

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Rival Sports’ goal: Unrivaled opportunities

LORAIN — Frank Griffith isn’t worried about titles.

Those moments when he’s scrubbing and sanitizing the bathrooms or washing and folding towels at 3 a.m. to make sure things are ready for the next day … it doesn’t matter that you own the company when there is work that has to be done.

Griffith is the owner and founder of Rival Sports, the all-season sports facility on Route 58 in Lorain that was formerly known as Premier Soccer Academies. Team USA goalie Brad Friedel, a Bay High School graduate now playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, opened the $10 million complex in 2007.

Friedel’s group failed to make the payments on the loans and the facility was set to go to sheriff’s auction in early 2011. Griffith worked out an arrangement to lease the facility, and has been working with area athletes, not just soccer players, ever since.

“The property is a very unique campus,” Griffith said. “As a matter of fact, there is only one property like it in the world. You hear ‘state of the art facilities’ all the time … however, there is only one like this.

“Brad spared no expense on building a facility that could build athletes, not just soccer players. You name the sport, this facility allows coaches to develop athletes on a year-round basis, and athletes to play their sport without modifying the game they play.”

Rival Sports hosts different leagues, camps and events that cater to training the high school athlete. It has a roster of specialized coaches for individual and group training, as well as some of the top workout facilities in the area.

There are two natural grass soccer fields on the property as well as one FieldTurf soccer pitch. There is field just for training goalies, a full-size indoor soccer field as well as workout rooms, dining facilities, meeting areas and dormitories to house up to 36 athletes.

“Our facility will offer leagues for sports that are played outdoors in the spring and summer months and the opportunity to play that sport year-round without modification of the rules, field size, equipment, etc. in the winter,” Griffith said. “When you modify the game too much it’s not the same game anymore and actually has a negative affect on the development process of a majority of athletes. Overall, Rival Sports can help bring the level of each athlete, team and sports program to a higher level.”

Griffith knows well the changes the last decade have brought in youth sports.

“Youth sports has becoming more than a day at the park or the pool,” he said. “It is way of life, an important fabric of many children’s upbringing and socialization into adulthood. Our goal is to develop players at all levels and help them attain their goals in that particular sport.

“We’re looking to establish elite competitive teams in soccer, football, fastpitch softball and baseball that could compete on the national level. We want to put a scholarship fund together to help families who are struggling financially, in order to offset the costs of participating in sports that have been inaccessible to families facing hardships.

“Facilities like ours are usually reserved for the professional or collegiate athlete. We’re looking to make them accessible to all athletes no matter what level they’re at. We recognize the positive impact that sports can have on a child’s life and the lessons that sports can teach our future generations.”

Rival Sports has 3,500-4,000 kids per week participating in various sports programs, leagues and tournaments. Ohio Youth Soccer Association Olympic Development Program utilizes the facility to train and evaluate players for the national team.

Rival has four full-time employees and three part-time, but Griffith has bigger plans for the future.

“We have positioned ourselves to purchase the property (this year),” he said.

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.