Mint City, Chapter by Chapter: Kernersville
by Grant Fath
Kernersville (kur∙nrz∙vl) and passionate (pa∙shuh∙nuht) are two words that are synonymous talking about North Carolina and soccer. Kernersville, a town just east of Winston-Salem, west of Greensboro, and north of High Point, is no newcomer to soccer. This community has a strong soccer foundation and an enthusiasm for the game that stands up to any big city. So, when Charlotte won an expansion team, being involved was never in question but rather, how.
Childhood friends and soccer teammates, Ricky Johnston, Taylor Olive, and Nick Conley, were playing together in an adult soccer league and were searching for sponsorships when they came across the newly formed Mint City Collective(MCC). After getting to know the group a bit more, the three decided to have their own team go by the name MCC. "As soon as we found out what MCC was about, we were just immediately hooked," said Ricky.
Although the sponsorship aspect didn't work as intended, there surely was an impact.
"I guess you'd call it a reverse sponsorship. We forced everybody on our team to sign up to get the shirts to use the jersey," recalled Taylor.
The team's name and shirts began to garner questions, and the answers spiked interest. The town was a buzz, and the creation of the Kernersville Chapter was inevitable. Led by Ricky, Taylor, and Nick, the chapter boasts more than 40 active members.
Like many other chapters, the events and gatherings halted as Covid's firmer grip took hold on everyday lives. Now, as the inaugural season approaches, this chapter is ready to pick up the momentum they had at the beginning. With the goal of at least two monthly meetups, the group has many ideas to get fans, families, and community alike involved. They have already started getting together for watch-parties now that the MLS season is underway. As things continue to open, they are excited about other possibilities as well. One idea the group is currently brainstorming is converting local beach volleyball courts into mini soccer pitches for a 3v3 style tournament.
Beyond routing for CLTFC, the goal is quite simply to continue to build family and community around the great game of soccer.
"I would love for people to look at MCC as a family, really a soccer family," asserted Ricky.
This group is adamant that whatever they do as a chapter, it involves families and is inclusive. They are eager to work with the youth soccer associations, Kernersville Soccer Association, and Piedmont Triad Football Club, for events and used equipment drives. There is pride with this group about the community's youth soccer, a pride that comes with being a small town that produces quality talent that is sought after from around the state. Recently Piedmont Triad FC had four players from their U14 equivalent squad go on trial with Charlotte FC's U14 academy. Stemming from that trial, two earned a call up to the 18-player roster for the friendly match against Inter Miami CF.
The town is a soccer town through and through, and that includes where they go to watch, talk, and enjoy soccer over a cold drink. In what seems like a perfect match, their meetup spot, Kernersville Brewing Company (KBC), is also family-centric and excited for soccer. Rick Lowe, co-owner of the establishment, retired youth soccer player, and MCC member himself didn't hesitate when Taylor approached him about partnering with MCC Kernersville, as he put it: "if nothing else, to watch soccer." Rick is excited to see how they are able to work together within soccer and within the community.
As many small businesses do, KBC leaned on the community to see them through this past year, and that's what the community did. According to Rick, "They made Kernersville Brewing Company, Kernersville's brewery." This family- and pet-friendly establishment specializing in American and German ales is sure to be a hopping place come game days, although perhaps a little less during CLTFC home games.
No stranger to making trips to Charlotte for matches, Kernersville MCC arrives early and ready to be a part of the party.
"We've been to a few panthers games, and we usually get there at like 8 a.m. for a 3 p.m. kickoff," Taylor recollected.
A quick story that he let slip involved a margarita machine and a missed match. I'll let them divulge whose fiesta slipped into a siesta. The plan is to come with great numbers and high energy.
Nick shared his hopes for the matches: "We had such an environment where everybody at the game was kind of like MCC whoa, what's that, I want to be a part of that."
It's not hard to imagine this chapter being a big presence with the way they see Charlotte, not as a trek down 1-85 but more of a walk across their back yard.
When asked what getting a pro team in Charlotte meant to them, they said it's "kind of a second home." Nick said, "When the professional team was awarded there, it felt like it was a win, still kind of felt like your backyard, so tangible." The influences don't just stop with the game-day experience. Kernersville is also home to Michael Truhe, who has been instrumental in designing MCC chapter logos, including their own.
As far as expectations for the new team, the response was grounded, stating they predict a quality team that hopefully employs an attacking style. In the end though, the consensus among the three was that this team is already a success. Seeing the level of support already behind this team and the excitement for the next year, CLTFC is already off to a winning start.
The main thing this group is ready for is for everyone and anyone to enjoy a game of soccer.
"We kind of want people around here to say, alright, it's Charlotte FC game day, let's all get together, let's just have a good time and bring our families out and have fun," Taylor stated when asked what he wants MCC to help achieve.
Nick added, "We want to let them know that MCC is where they can go, just to kind of start, to get to know a group. And if they are not really sure what the rules are, or whose who, or what's all involved, I think it's a good place for them to feel like themselves and feel like it's a good place to just have a good time."
So, if you are in the area, make sure to stop by for an Intergalactic Space Cat IPA and an intense debate about tactics, for it's clear this group, in the heart of the triad, definitely have their hearts in CLTFC, the community, and the beautiful game.
You can read about our Matthews Chapter here