Tibi Regele hopes new facility will help youngsters fulfill soccer dreams
WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, OHIO — Tibi Regele understands better than most people what a soccer field of any kind can mean to a youngster.
So much so that the new indoor field of his dreams was in part inspired by the modest yet very special field of his youth.
“Friends coming over to our small place, with us trying to learn to dribble and keep the ball,” Regele said of the makeshift soccer field in his small back yard as a child in Budapest, Hungary.
“You could do a lot there, though. We played every day because it was a blast. There was Communism around us. But soccer was something they couldn’t take from us,” he said.
Regele’s Excel Soccer Skills Development in Warrensville Heights is designed to provide boys and girls from age 4 through the high school years the fundamental technical and tactical skills necessary to improve their game. Players — including goalkeepers — get instruction in individualized, small-group settings based on their strengths, weaknesses and style of play.
Youngsters, except beginners, participate in two assessment classes to determine their instruction levels. Parents can relax in an adjoining waiting room, which includes two large TV monitors, one of which has live streaming of the players being coached.
“We want the parents and kids to talk with us, and us listen to them,” Regele said of Excel, which has been open to some instruction since Oct. 7 and will be fully operational on Nov. 9. “We want it to be personal. That’s what the feedback has been.”
Regele has the first name Tibor, though he is known to everyone as Tibi. He played seven years of professional soccer for BP Volan SC in Hungary before immigrating to the United States in 1994.
Regele is the girls varsity coach at Magnificat High School, leading this year’s Blue Streaks to a Division I district championship game, which it lost to powerhouse Strongsville. His 15 years of high school coaching include stays at Solon and Laurel, which he guided to a state tournament runner-up finish in 2011.
The 48-year-old Regele grew up in a poor neighborhood when Hungary was under the dictatorship of the Communist Soviet Union. He first came to Cleveland in 1990, as part of a group of young men sponsored for a soccer visit near the time of Hungary gaining its independence as the Soviet Union collapsed. He became friends with people in Cleveland’s large Hungarian community, and moved here to stay in 1994.
Regele lives in Moreland Hills with his wife, Heather, and daughter, Lily, 14. He owns a construction business, which he began in the mid-1990s, as he became familiar with the culture and language as a Cuyahoga Community College student.
“I basically started from scratch, but now is the time I feel like I need to give back,” Regele said. “I appreciate everything soccer has given me. It’s time for me to give back something to the community and to the soccer world, by teaching these young athletes and working on all the details and aspects of the game, and giving them an opportunity to work on their skill sets.”
Nicole Felice is a soccer standout at Gannon University, where she has earned academic honors. Regele was her coach at Laurel.
“Tibi goes beyond just wanting to have a good team,” she says. “He cares about developing a player to become an overall well-rounded person — not just a good player who will help him win games.
“Tibi taught me how to have a positive outlook on everything I do in life, helped me become a better player and helped me learn how to tackle problems,” she said.
“I tore my ACL my freshman year in college, and Tibi worked with me four days a week that entire summer for free, so that I could return to my former abilities.”
Working with Regele at Excel are field instructors Courtney Zuendel and Matt Tainer, and goalkeeper instructor Danny Nagy.
“This facility is giving young athletes the opportunity to be in an environment where they can work on their technical skills, muscle memory, foot skills, ball control and goalkeeping,” Regele said. “Soccer has always been my passion. It gave me the opportunity to come to the United States.”