Jul. 3—The premise itself was fun to talk about.
But then a global pandemic turned the world upside down, and a lighthearted joke became a reality — one that saw dozens of kids putting in work at an indoor facility on Thursday in Monroeville.
“It was always one of those things we’ve joked, laughed and talked about how fun it would be,” said Angie Kalizewski of past conversations with her husband, Aaron. “Then everything came with the pandemic shutting everything down and things just kind of happened.”
Like many, the Norwalk couple saw their three grade-school aged children losing practices because of a lack of a venue and the inability to get inside of schools.
And so Control The Game Sports (CTG) was born last fall, and just surpassed the six-month milestone of being open at the facility located at 15 Fort Monroe Industrial Parkway, just off U.S. 20 on the western side of Monroeville.
The indoor facility includes a volleyball court, basketball hoops and batting cages for baseball and softball, with plans for more in the works.
Angie Kalizewski is an assistant varsity volleyball coach at St. Paul, where she graduated from in 2003 after helping the Lady Flyers to the Division IV state championship in 2002. She was also the head coach at Norwalk High School from 2010-17, which also included a Div. II state runners-up finish in 2012.
Aaron Kalizewski is a 1998 St. Paul graduate who also appeared in a championship game as the quarterback of the Flyers in the Div. VI state title game in 1997.
“After being in coaching for so long, you’re not willing to let that drop off because then it hurts their future, and our kids are at an age where you want to keep them going,” Angie said.
Spurred on by the motivation of having a place for kids to work, Angie randomly got a call from Aaron, who had received a picture of a possible location for a sports facility.
“Again, we were always joking about it so at first I didn’t think too much of it,” she said.
But the couple went to the building and looked around, then pitched their idea to the owners about what their vision was for the space.
“And they were all about it and loved it,” Angie said. “They were willing to work with us, and then things went quick. It’s one of those things where you talk about it, but once you show some interest people start to ask when it’s going to be up and running.”
Work started heavily in November, and by January the facility was in use.
“We were going to just do baseball and softball at the start because that was the need first at the time,” Angie said. “We were kind of past the point of getting it ready for JO volleyball and Northsore, but then we got a phone call during the middle of tryouts asking when the place would be up and running.”
By the first full week of January, CTG Sports was open. So far, area athletes from Norwalk, St. Paul, Bellevue, Shelby and Western Reserve have been among the participants.
Initially, CTG was open from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. every Sunday.
“We were swamped all winter,” Angie said. “Eventually we’d like to get to that point to be here daily, but for us it’s more of a learning game of what is needed and what is not. If we know there is a need for something, we want to find a way to make it happen.”
The full-sized batting cages convert for baseball or softball, with the turfed area surrounded by netting all the way around the top, bottom and sides so players have the ability to live pitch and hit safely with multiple stations set up.
A full court for volleyball as well as basketball hoops are also available for use.
“What we’re looking for and hoping is various kids programs will come rent this space and do what they want with it,” Angie said. “We added the basketball hoops a bit later in the year, so the goal next winter is to get the basketball going a little more.
“This whole space is the right size, and if we ever got busy enough, ideally we’d put in a whole new court and run tournaments — but we’re not there yet.”
Ideally, the Kalizewski’s will see where things go and what interest looks like from various sports teams over the upcoming 2021-22 school year.
“We want to keep it going and do as much as we can to provide a need,” Angie said. “We just want to offer programs and give kids that opportunity to get inside and use that practice space, because we don’t really have it around here.”
The name “Control the Game” comes from a saying Angie has used often in her coaching.
“Because you start here and put the work in, which helps you control the outcome and the game,” she said. “You control your future actions and how far you can go. That has to start here and you have to put the work in.
The main contact for the facility is via Facebook (CTGSports1), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Without having expectations and not knowing what we wanted, it’s been more than we could have dreamed so far,” Angie said. “We love being able to do this, and it’s just been fun to see kids come here and improve.”