September 28, 2020
Thunder Soccer Club of Howard County was created in 1991, to provide committed youth soccer players in a rural but developing area access to travel soccer. They are just about to celebrate their 30th anniversary! We met with Kristin DeCou, Club Administrator, and Stefan Draganov, Director of Coaching who has been with the club since 2001, to find out how the club has achieved such longevity operating in the area.
Thunder SC history?
Thunder has a long history of developing players in Howard County. They pride themselves on transparency, structured with clear expectations, and develop innovative ways to maximize player development in the club.
2001 was a game-changing year for Thunder, the club became more structured, organized, and professional. The club also relocated closer to Columbia, allowing them to offer more soccer activities. Thunder is dedicated to providing as many financial and scholarship opportunities for their players as they can.
How is Thunder SC different from other clubs?
Thunder’s club structure makes them different from competitors in the area as shown by their longevity. Many clubs in the area have folded over the years, but the community atmosphere of the club makes them a great option for players in the area. Thunder is designed for administrators and coaches to succeed; the club wants the best environment for its employees as well as their players.
Thunder is big enough, but also small enough for families to recognize and know each other, creating a sense of community culture. The size of the club also allows coaches to know players from other teams rather than just their own. Players and coaches from different age groups and teams get the chance to work with and know each other.
Notable teams or players?
Thunder has had some success in recent years in USYS Competitions. In 2018, 3 Thunder teams advanced to Regional Presidents Cup. They also have multiple alumni playing at the college level such as Michael Heitzmann, who won a National Champion at the University of Maryland, College Park.
How have you supported your players and families throughout the pandemic?
During the pandemic, Thunder has prioritized supporting their families as much as possible. They regularly updated families with the CDC and Return to Play Guidelines to ensure they were taking the correct precautions to provide the safest environment for players to return to the field. They were also regulars on MSYSA Club Leadership webinars throughout the pandemic.
To help their players during the pandemic, they offered Facebook Live skill and conditioning sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays. Coaches also created videos of technical drills and activities for players to refine their skills, and also conducted zoom calls with their players to keep up with the social aspect of being on a team and to work on skills together too.
What opportunities do you provide for your coaches and players to continually develop?
Thunder strives to provide the best foundations for their coaches to develop as well as their players. Internally, Thunder conducts regular coaches’ meetings to check-in and find out how we can work together to support one another. They have created guidelines to address different challenges coaches may face within their teams. Coaches also share different tactics or stylistic approaches they implement to bounce around ideas and create discussion. Lastly, Thunder pushes all their coaches to get at least their “D” License and are committed to creating the best environment for players to develop.