A Tormenta FC Academy team, including Tristan DeLoach (5th from right) and Grant Hampton (4th from right), two players signed to USL Academy contracts with Tormenta's first team in USL League One. Photo by Aaron Cranford/Tormenta FC
STATESBORO, Ga. - Since the foundation of South Georgia Tormenta FC in 2015, the club has repeatedly shown a commitment to serving its local community in ways that go far beyond the soccer field. Recently, Tormenta FC and the Sack Company provided 132 meals to local people in need through a charity t-shirt sale. The club donated $2,000 to its local NAACP chapter in an effort to support the Black community in June, and is now making a push to help fans register to vote.
In addition to the initiatives Tormenta promotes away from the game, the club has quickly endeared itself to people in South Georgia and the Low Country of South Carolina thanks to its focus on providing high-level youth soccer to hundreds of local players. Through the Ibis Foundation, the club is greatly reducing and in some cases eliminating pay-to-play barriers.
That dedication hasn’t wavered during the challenging times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 28, the Ibis Foundation announced a grant which will partially fund 26 academy teams in Georgia and South Carolina, and fully fund the first 250 recreation players to register in Savannah. The grant will also cover all 2020 tryout fees for current players.
“Great soccer players can come from anywhere, so why not here?” said Tormenta FC Owner and President Darin Van Tassell. “But this journey has to be less about financial barriers and more about the individual work and organizational culture that is associated with becoming an expert at any level. The Ibis Foundation has sought generous donors so that it can help increase access and reduce hurdles. Our path doesn't happen without it.”
Following the success of the club’s pilot grant program in 2019, which fully funded three academy teams, the latest grant will allow Tormenta to provide a growing number of players and families with the chance to play soccer.
"The impact of this grant goes beyond the obvious financial portion,” Ibis Foundation Executive Director Mike Panter said. “To offer a program that alleviates that barrier and truly makes it about identifying the talent in our region, that is priceless. Our board is grateful for being able to provide our academy with this opportunity and look forward to growing this program and soccer in the Low Country region."
As Tormenta’s first team prepares to begin the 2020 USL League One season on July 18, three players in particular on the club’s roster show the benefit of investing in local talent. Goalkeeper Stephen O’Hearn and midfielders Grant Hampton and Tristan DeLoach all came through Tormenta’s youth program before signing USL Academy contracts with the club, and now will have the opportunity to represent the club at the professional level.
Thanks to the efforts of the Ibis Foundation, those three players are likely to be just the first of many local talents to make the leap to professional soccer at Tormenta FC.