May 3, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
The Mississippi Storm will face their first big test as a member of the National Premier Soccer League when they open the regular seasonSaturday (May 5) against last year's champions, Jacksonville United.
But the real test will be turning the Storm into a success.
"There's no professional (sports) entity in Mississippi," said Joey Gronau, one of the team's founders. "Everyone is riding around with a (New Orleans) Saints flag on their car, and they are not even in the state."
Gronau says the decision to start the Storm came after he became attached to the Gulf Coast area while in the Navy. Though a soccer-related injury forced him out of training to become a Navy Seal, he did play in the All-Navy soccer team, and became involved in the youth soccer programs in the area.
"There are so many kids playing soccer here, and there's nothing for them to watch," he said.
The Storm already has fared well in a number of preseason games, and is averaging about 150 fans per game in the preseason.
Gronau says the club hopes to improve on that during the regular NPSL season. One of the promotions it plans to do is to provide free tickets to school kids, in the hope they will attend with their parents. He also hopes to work with some of the youth clubs in the area as well. The Storm is also planning a large- scale summer camp program that will run in June and July.
Because of the spread-out nature of the area, the Storm is marketing and promoting itself as a regional team, hence the name Mississippi. The team will play its home games at Ocean Springs High School in Ocean Springs, Miss., and will practice in Gulf Port. Both communities are near the larger metropolitan area of Biloxi.
The team has attracted all-local players for its initial squad, with some coming from the University of Mobile in Alabama, and others from William Carey College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Charles Cuttone is Executive Editor of Soccer News Net