September 2, 2020
In this edition of our 'Club Spotlight', we spoke with Kendol Decker, the President and Technical Director Aspen Hill Soccer Club.
Aspen Hill is a smaller, diverse club in Montgomery County that aims to make soccer affordable and accessible to everyone in their community. Before Aspen Hill, Decker founded Champions United Soccer Academy in the Potomac Area in 2014, but saw the need to rebrand in the eastern part of Montgomery County, to reach kids in that area where there were no structured advanced travel clubs.
Within the club, there is a huge sense of community. Practicing in Aspen Hill makes it more convenient for players to travel from Rockville and Bethesda. Since the majority of players live close to where the club operates, many players can travel to practice on bikes or walk. Their community extends outside of the field as many people are friends and enjoy playing and following the game together domestically and internationally.
The pandemic has been tough for Aspen Hill as a club and community. During the peak of the pandemic, Aspen Hill supported their players and families by stopping payments in March as many of Aspen Hill’s families are low-income. They had to temporarily lay off a small coaching staff as they tried their best to manage their resources. As it has since been deemed safe to hold practices, Aspen Hill has reinstated 90% of their coaching staff. Decker and generous families were able to give money back to keep the club afloat throughout this period of uncertainty.
Aspen Hill focuses immensely on developing its players and coaches. Decker wants all coaches to pursue licenses, as the club offers tuition reimbursement for the D and C courses. For players, Aspen Hill prioritizes player development and giving them the highest level of exposure to play in college and beyond. They focus on building student-athletes and good citizens.
In addition to their responsibilities of developing players on the field, Aspen Hill coaches follow up with players on their performances in school. If a player is struggling in certain areas, they help to find solutions.
Since Aspen Hill, has many players from low-income families, they subsidize scholarships through local business donations and various fundraising campaigns in addition to generous donations from parents. Over 60% of the players are on scholarships for over 50% of the cost of registration fees.
Aspen Hill strives for their players to play for the love of the game, but aim to compete at the elite level. The 05’s, currently the oldest age group in the club, set their goals on National League qualification. As well as having top-level, high school age teams, the club has teams down to U7, with typically 1-2 teams per age group. They also have a Tots Program for kids 18 months – 4 years old to help them learn the fundamentals of the game in a positive and fun environment.
The current landscape of the world makes it difficult for smaller clubs to continue operation, but Aspen Hill’s tight-knit community is helping them survive. Donations from generous families have allowed Aspen Hill to be able to get through the spring and summer. There is uncertainty around how many players will return for the fall, so they may have to combine age groups. However, they will aim to have one team per age group and operate as best as they can.