The California Storm are one of the winningest teams in women’s soccer, having won the WPSL three times since they helped found the league back in 1997. Their history goes back even further than that, really, as they were themselves founded in 1995 and began play in the USL W-League when they helped found that league as well. While in the W-League, they went by the Sacramento Storm, and made their way to the National final two out of the three years in their tenure there. When they switched and contributed to the beginning of the WPSL in 1998, they switched their name to California Storm and continued their domination of women’s soccer. We wanted to know more about their past, pedigree, but also of their present, so we reached out to the organization and current owner and head coach, Jamie Howard-Levoy was considerably generous with her time and answered all of our questions.
The California Storm have 10 Division titles and 3 WPSL League titles; Tell us more about the organization - when were you founded? Have you always been the California Storm?
The California Storm was founded in 1997 in Sacramento by Jerry Zanelli. Official name is California Storm of Sacramento. I have been with the California Storm since 2010.
Some soccer clubs exist as an adult end to the development funnel, and some squads don't have a connection to a youth program; how is your club built and what's the overriding mission? Developing elite players is the dream of most soccer programs; after the development, how should clubs help players advance their athletic and professional goals?
The great thing about thing about the California Storm is that we are not one club affiliated. We cater to every club primarily in the Sacramento region but not limited to just those clubs. We focus on growing the game of soccer for both girls and women. We do this by providing free soccer clinics and free girls soccer festivals in the community. The Storm partners with the clubs, the clubs advertise it to their players and then together we put it on.
Our mission for our team is to play at the highest level possible. If it is one of our players' goal to play in the NWSL or overseas, we will do whatever we can to help them achieve that. Our goal in the community is to be the role models for girls so they have someone to look up to and to get them excited about the game. It is also important for us to teach girls about goal setting, confidence building, healthy choices and injury prevention.
For developing elite players to play at the next level, it is important to stress to players that they have to do the work. So many players rely on their natural talent and don't completely dedicate themselves to playing to their fullest potential. As coaches, it is our job to network and develop contacts for these players. It does take time and work on our part which can be tough after a full day of being out in the hot sun. As a coach, we should be excited for them to take that next step and be thankful that we were part of their journey. This is their time, their chance, and if there is anything we can do to help them get achieve their dreams we must do it.
Now that the World Cup is over do you expect any reduction in attendance for your club? How dependent are you on funds from the turnstiles? Have any players, or even coaches, moved on from California Storm to play for NWSL or even any national teams?
The World Cup brought a lot of attention to our team which is something we needed. We have had great players play for the California Storm such as Sissi, Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan, Leslie Obsborne, Aly Wagner and Julie Foudie to name a few. Alex Morgan played for the California Storm and is now playing in the NWSL and for the US National Team. We just had one of our goalkeepers, Abbie Faingold, sign a professional contract and is playing over in Japan.
This team has always played at a high level, but we fell behind in marketing the team on social media and in the community. I believe that our attendance will continue to grow because of we are out in the community building relationships with players. This past year, we did not charge for admission into games which was new for us. This really helped us build a fan base. Since we don't charge admission, we rely heavily on team sponsors to pay for game day expenses.
Sacramento has a lot of options for soccer fans, with The Republic, Sacramento Gold, and even a short drive to Davis - are there any cross-promotions with men's sides? Do any supporters’ groups come out to Storm matches?
This year we partnered with UC Davis Health and the Sacramento Republic FC which has been huge for us. Both of them have been so supportive of us and share our passion to better the community. We recently did a 4v4 Watch Me campaign with the Sac Republic. This event focused on building the girls game. The players competed at Papa Murphy's Park and the California Storm players warmed the players up and officiated the games. The California Storm also played the first round of the conference playoff at Papa Murphy’s Park before a Sac Republic game. The partnership with the Sacramento Republic FC has brought more awareness to the women's game and we have more fans as a result. Building our fan base is a constant focus for us.
What is the future of your organization? Will we see Storm return to the WPSL in 2020? If anybody is interested, how can they support your organization?
The California Storm will be playing in the WPSL season in 2020 and we are very excited about the upcoming season. We have grown tremendously in 2019 but have so much more to accomplish this upcoming year. If anyone is interested in supporting the team, we are looking for team sponsors and you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.