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WEST SALEM -- Although the Ohio Storm Athletic Club started in the village only four years ago, it has grown into a powerhouse for more than 500 student athletes in five counties surrounding the area.
What started as a desire by Wooster resident Scot Clapp in 2010, has flourished into the nonprofit Ohio Storm. The club started as a soccer program for children to learn the basic fundamentals of the game, going under the name NW Storm for Northwestern Local Schools.
Throughout the last four years, the Ohio Storm has grown to include basketball, volleyball and martial arts. The Storm rents space at eight gymnasiums throughout Wayne County for year-round practices and games, and has students from Ashland County, Holmes County, Medina County, Richland County and Wayne involved in the club.
"We train every kid who is an athlete ... to be club (level) players," Clapp said. "In this world of chaos, I think sometimes the parents like structure, and the kids like structure. That's the reason the club has been doing so well."
Clapp said all of his coaches are certified either nationally or state-wide in coaching, and he makes sure every moment of practice is spent to improve foot skills and general basics of the game.
One of the biggest success stories in Clapp's mind is with Brandon Barnette, a second-grader at Northwestern Elementary School. When he started the program, he was 51/2 years old.
"He has been the baby of the club since Day 1," mother Tina Barnette said.
Since her son was so young, she originally said Brandon should pass on the program until he was older. Thanks to convincing from Clapp, he began learning the basics and now plays with an under-10 traveling team, even though he is 8 years old.
"He says that his life goal is to be a professional soccer player, and I don't think he would have said that if he hadn't joined the program," Barnette said. "He's really become an amazing little soccer player."
Although Barnette said Ohio Storm is a large time commitment for the entire family, it has provided Brandon with more confidence on and off the soccer field.
"That's his passion, he absolutely loves it," Barnette said.
Brandon's skills were tested last year when he competed in a foot skills competition in Erie, Pa., and placed sixth overall in his category at the 2013 Ford Soccer Skills Regional Competition, along with Northwestern student Abbi Johns, who also placed sixth in her category.
Thanks to the growth of the club, Clapp said the next large goal for the club is to build its own facility in the future. By 2015, Clapp also hopes to add baseball and softball to its expertise and possibly a wrestling program in the future.
Contact Abby Armbruster at 330-287-1632 or email her at email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @abbyarmbruster.