As the entire sports world attempts to creep a bit closer to normalcy, Statesboro’s pro squad is farther along than most.
For over a month, members of Tormenta FC have been able to hit the training field, albeit working in limited groups and under strict health guidelines. But the green light was given to return to a teamwide, full-pace practice and that’s exactly what Tormenta did as the club hosted a scrimmage and full-contact drills Wednesday morning at its practice facility at The Clubhouse.
“I think these guys are as hungry as ever,” Tormenta coach John Miglarese said. “We’re trying to take mental health and physical health into account, so right now we’re really trying to make the environment into account and make sure that they’re in the right place to arrive ready to play.”
Tormenta is entering its second season as a professional outfit in USL League One, which is the third tier of professional competition in the United States’ structure. Following a solid debut on the pro side last season, there were high hopes for better things to come as players were able to spend the entire offseason living and training in Statesboro.
A few new pieces were added over the winter months and Tormenta looked to hit the ground running before it - like every other team in the world - had the brakes slammed on in mid-March with precautions taken to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We had the guys focused and really going in mid-March and then the world kind of stopped in a way,” Miglarese said. “It’s been a long, long game of keeping them inspired and bought in.”
There will be plenty of questions for teams throughout the sports world of how players will react to having their routine put on hold, only to try and ramp up to full speed on just a few weeks’ notice.
For Tormenta, it didn’t take long for the fire and spirit of competition to kick back in.
“Maybe the first few minutes we were feeling things out,” midfielder Marco Micaletto said. “It was like we were wondering if it was ok to get physical and make contact with everyone. But that faded away fast and then the muscle memory took over. It felt good to be running fast and playing hard again.”
USL League One has announced plans to begin its 2020 season on July 18. No official schedule has been set, but Tormenta is training with the impression that it will have a match on that date. That’s a quick turnaround to go from limited practicing and players taking care of their own physical training to competing for a title, but there is some familiarity amongst the squad in that regard.
Much of the roster - and Miglarese - were also part of Tormenta in its Premier Development League days. Under that setup, it wasn’t uncommon for players to arrive in town less than a week before the start of the season..
“I think that experience helps,” Miglarese said. “This is uncharted territory for everyone. In my coaching school, we never prepared for this type of situation. But I think the guys have stayed close and maintained a positive attitude throughout this challenge. I think the relationships they’ve built are really going to carry us as we go into this season.”