ONTARIO– A local coach has established a new soccer training program to cultivate homegrown talent in Malheur County.
Mario Grimaldo started Final Third Fútbol, an outdoor and indoor developmental soccer training program, in Ontario earlier this year.
Grimaldo, the head coach of the Four Rivers Community School boys soccer team, said he has permission to gyms and soccer fields at Four Rivers and Aiken Elementary as training sites, along with the Ontario Nazarene Church.
However, he said he is getting closer to locking up a deal to secure an indoor location in Ontario as the home for his soccer training program for 12– to 15-year-olds.
Earlier this month, the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board approved Final Third for a $13,500 grant to find a facility to rent to hold individual one-on-one and group trainings.
Grimaldo said the nearest training facility for a soccer player is 25 miles away. While the Ontario Recreation District offers a soccer league, the district’s age limit is 10 and under. Older students who cannot travel do not get another chance to play until high school.
It’s crucial, he said, to continue to build soccer skills during middle school years.
With Ontario High School’s 2022 state soccer championship title and the sport’s increasing popularity across the country, Grimaldo said he wants to build a positive place for local kids to focus on healthy activities.
“I want to make it fun for the athletes,” he said.
At the same time, he said he wants to instill a philosophy in players to give 100% on the field and in practice.
In addition to individual training, Grimaldo said he would offer small group training of up to 14 athletes so they can learn and play together in a team setting.
Also, he said, the facility will provide “partner training” with pairs of athletes to work on passing, dribbling and offensive strategies. The program will also offer camps, memberships and recruiting services.
Grimaldo said as the business picks up, he wants to hold special events in the community, including free training for middle school special needs students.
Grimaldo, 32, grew up in Fruitland, where he played in recreational soccer leagues in middle school and competitively in high school. As a kid, he would travel to central Mexico with his family and play soccer with other kids his age.
Grimaldo was recruited to play on scholarship at several colleges but a shin fracture “paused” his playing career. He said he never let the injury discourage him, and he healed and continued to train and condition as a hobby.
In 2019, Grimaldo graduated from Boise State University with a degree in information technology management and currently works in the financial aid office at Treasure Valley Community College. He was the junior assistant coach for Treasure Valley men’s soccer team, Fruitland’s assistant boys soccer coach and an assistant coach for Ontario’s track team.
Grimaldo said soccer has been the most popular sport in the world for decades. In the U.S., American teams are recruiting more international soccer stars and that is inspiring more kids to play for local teams, he said.
“These youth are more inclined to continue playing soccer if they have opportunities and support from their parents, schools, and, more importantly, from their communities,” he said.
He said the interest in eastern Oregon has been “visible for many years” and with the proper training and support from parents and the community, kids in Malheur County can develop their abilities and excel on the field when they reach high school.
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