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Tormenta FC Owners Discuss Female Leadership in Sports

By AARON CRANFORD - aaron.cranford@uslsoccer.com, 03/08/18, 4:55PM EST

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Netra Van Tassell, Brighton, Goodman, Kagen and Michel are driving force for team


USL DIII / Darin (left) and Netra (right) Van Tassell at South Georgia Tormenta FC's USL Division III announcement

While the presence of women in leadership positions within sports organizations across the United States is rising, South Georgia Tormenta FC is at the forefront of the movement.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, the league reached out to the many female owners of the team, which is based in Statesboro, Georgia, and was named the first founding member of USL Division III in January, to talk about the growing presence of women in sports.

Five women are part of the 11-person ownership group of Tormenta FC, including four Minority Owners (Stephanie Brighton, Kristen Goodman, Kristin Kagen and Mary Ann Michel) and Netra Van Tassell – who is a Majority Owner alongside her partner and husband, Darin Van Tassell.

Why did you decide to become a part of the Tormenta FC ownership group?

  • "As with any big decision, there were many factors that were a part of us – my husband, Darin, and I – starting Tormenta FC," said Netra Van Tassell. "I am always delighted to say how wonderful our marriage is and becoming a true ‘partner’ in a business just made our marriage, and I believe business, even stronger. I continue to be honored and humbled to have been able to begin and to continue to grow Tormenta FC. And very importantly, to watch it become a force on the pitch – this just makes me smile broadly."
  • "Several reasons, both personal and professional," said Kristen Goodman. "My oldest daughter played soccer at the highest levels in the United States, and for a Division I college. My son will begin playing for a Division I program next year. I have been a soccer mom for 16 years. I have watched our country’s passion for the sport grow exponentially in that time. In this region, Tormenta FC has been at the forefront of bringing high level soccer to players and fans. I believe in the Tormenta ownership group and their vision, and I believe in the soccer’s ability to inspire, unite and excite a community. So, this investment made sense to me on several levels."
  • "Netra and Darin Van Tassell are dear friends, as are Co-Owners Jeff Spencer, Steph Brighton and Kristen Goodman," Kristin Kagen said. "We've been through a lot together through our children's educations, youth soccer and soccer-related non-profits, and there is a mutual trust and respect among all of us. I would do anything for these people. When I learned about the potential to become a part of this ownership group, it was an easy decision for me because of the people involved and my own soccer experiences."

Why is it important for women to invest in opportunities such as this?

  • "Just a couple weeks ago, while I was working, I was overcome by the happiness that I felt when a young girl asked me about being an owner of a business,” Netra Van Tassell said. "She literally said, 'Do you think I could be an owner of something someday?' I honestly believe this is what it is all about – the true reason that drives me as an owner of Tormenta FC is to be able to show other young females that one can strive to heights that they might not even understand. That they can take their own path wherever they would like. Also, to show young males that women can be amazing and impressive mothers and wives, as well as business owners and colleagues. Supporting other females and watching them grow to be the best version of themselves as adults is what fuels me to be a better me and to do all I can in whatever I am working on at the moment. It is my true honor. And yes, it is a lot of work, but so rewarding in so many ways."
  • "I think it is important for women to invest in business opportunities across the board, and sports are a business," Goodman said. "As a lawyer who has worked in the corporate world for 25 years, I have seen women become leaders and offer invaluable strategic and financial insights to all types of organizations. I hope I am setting an example for my daughters and my son by taking this opportunity."
  • "I think any traditionally male-dominated business can benefit from a woman's perspective," Kagen said. "As we continue our progress in this venture, our successes hopefully will create opportunities for other women and other ownership groups. It will also be good for young girls to see women owners in sports to open career avenues that they may have thought were typically not available to women."
  • "I am not only a woman but a mother," Stephanie Brighton told USLD3.com. "From that, I have seen the environment that sports has created for not just my children but my family as well. It takes a huge sacrifice to raise athletes but is incredibly rewarding in many ways other than the specific sport. Why would I not want other families to have this opportunity? The individuals particularly involved in my investment are people I really respect. I want to invest but mostly share in the healthy relationships that have been produced from our experience. The soccer commitment has helped navigate all the values you hope to teach your children and/or experience for yourself. What may start out as a selfish act of just wanting to play a sport, you quickly realize that ‘team’ takes on a whole new meaning. I always want to be a part of this team."

How do you think women can be better represented in the world of sports, specifically soccer?

  • “There are so many avenues for women to shine in sports and soccer specifically," said Netra Van Tassell. "Not only as an athlete themselves, but in leadership positions throughout leagues – from youth leagues to the MLS. As more and more women jump into these rolls and positions where they can show their talents, work hard and touch lives, then woman will shine, and everyone will reap the benefits. There is much to offer when women work with men in professional ways at all levels. It is truly remarkable."
  • "I think it starts with our girls," Goodman said. "The success of our U.S. women’s team has inspired hundreds of thousands of young female athletes. Sports, in general, are empowering for girls. Young girls who have gained a sense of confidence, resilience and assertiveness through their participation in sport as kids, will grow up to be strong, confident leaders as women. I’ve seen it with my own college daughter and her teammates.  They are going on to become investment bankers, lawyers, doctors.  But their love of sports will continue forever.  They will be the Tormenta investors of tomorrow."
  • "More and more women are watching and participating in soccer, Kagen said. "From an athlete’s perspective, superstars tend to generate interest across genders (e.g., Mia Hamm), and current development efforts should continue so that more girls have opportunities to reach their potentials. Women team owners and executives can also be more vocal about their roles in the sports organization to be role models for young girls with sports business aspirations."

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