Aston Rhoden has led Middle Tennessee's soccer program to unprecedented success since taking the reins in 2002, and, proving to be a well-rounded leader, his program has excelled in every area entering his seventh season.
Already the all-time winningest coach in program history with a mark of 73-37-12, Rhoden has seen each of his Blue Raider teams secure double figures for victories in each of his six previous seasons, including a school-record 17 wins in 2006. Middle Tennessee's team has earned the NSCAA Academic Award in each of his six seasons.
Indeed, the Rhoden era has been one of on-field accomplishments and academic achievements. The two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year led the Blue Raiders to their first conference championship in 2004 when they won the Sun Belt, and Middle Tennessee has strung together five straight winning seasons for the first time in program history entering 2008. Rhoden notched his 100th career win in Middle Tennessee's 3-1 win against Western Kentucky (10/27/06).
Rhoden's coaching has elevated his players to high levels of success and Middle Tennessee's fast-paced, attacking style has not only resulted in a top-notch defensive squad, but fans were also awed by an offensive unit rated third nationally in scoring offense in 2006. Middle Tennessee's 17-4 record also produced the nation's eighth-best winning percentage (.810) in 2006. The high-octane Middle Tennessee offense established single-season records for points (222), goals (76), and assists (66) in 2006. High-scoring offenses under Rhoden are nothing new: the Blue Raiders were No. 3 nationally in scoring in 2004, and they ranked among the top 25 nationally in 2005.
The Blue Raiders also earned the program's first regional ranking in 2006. They broke into the Soccer Buzz regional ranking after a 14-2 start and finished the 2006 campaign ranked No. 14 in the final Central Regional poll.
Under Rhoden's direction, Middle Tennessee has proven to be a record-setting program in all aspects of the game. The single-season records for wins, shots, goals, assists, points, least goals allowed, goals against average, and shutouts all have been established under his watch.
Middle Tennessee has become one of the premier teams in the Sun Belt under Rhoden, whose squads are 37-12-8 in conference play. Rhoden's solid work has been rewarded with Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2003 and 2004.
His players have excelled on the field and in the classroom. Rhoden signed the SBC Newcomer of the Year in each of his first four seasons, and the 2005 signing class was rated No. 1 in the Sun Belt and among the top 55 classes nationally by SoccerBuzz.com. Additionally, the 2006-08 signing classes were named to the top 25 in the Central Region by SoccerBuzz.com. Rhoden produced the Sun Belt's Player of the Year in 2004 when Debs Brereton became the first player in school history to be so honored, and 25 of his players have earned All-Conference honors during the past four seasons.
Under his watch, eight Middle Tennessee players have been named to the All Central Region team by Soccer Buzz, and three players have earned recognition on the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week. Rhoden also has had a player selected to the Central Region All-Freshman Team by Soccer Buzz, while another was selected as the National Player of the Week by the NSCAA.
Middle Tennessee's run to the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2004 was another example of Rhoden's ability to enable players to flourish under his system.
Rhoden also has developed the top five all-time leading goal producers in program history as well as nine first-team All-Sun Belt players, one SBC Player of the Year, one SBC Freshman of the Year, four SBC Newcomers of the Year, and 20 Sun Belt Player of the Week selections. Rhoden coached two players at Middle Tennessee who earned spots on the All-Time Sun Belt 30-year Anniversary Team (Laura Miguez, Debs Brereton).
Success in recruiting has led to Middle Tennessee's elevated success on the field and to improved attendance in each of Rhoden's seasons.The Blue Raiders set a single-game attendance record when 1,309 attended the 2006 opener against Southern Miss. The previous high for single-game attendance was 1,285 against Vanderbilt in 2005.
Perhaps fans continue to flock to Blue Raider Field in record numbers because Rhoden's teams have rarely disappointed on the home turf. The Blue Raiders are 45-7-1 at home under Rhoden, including two perfect seasons (9-0 in 2004, 10-0 in 2006). The Blue Raiders had a 23-match home win streak snapped during the 2007 season but still managed to finish 6-1-1 on the home turf.
Not only does Rhoden emphasize winning on the field and in the weight room, but he also stresses excelling in the classroom as well as 66 of his student-athletes have earned All-SBC academic accolades during the previous five seasons, and he has had two players selected CoSIDA Academic All-District team. In addition, Middle Tennessee has earned the prestigious NSCAA Academic Award six consecutive years under Rhoden. Teams must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher to be considered. He also has had two players selected to the NSCAA South Region All-Scholar Team.
Rhoden became head coach at Middle Tennessee after serving in the same capacity for six seasons at North Alabama in Florence, Ala. Rhoden started the North Alabama program from scratch, playing the first season as a club team before moving to varsity status in his second year at the helm. He compiled 39 wins during his tenure at UNA, including a pair of 11-win campaigns.
Rhoden was hired at UNA after serving as staff coach for the Alabama Youth Soccer Association and as an assistant soccer coach at Randolph High School in Huntsville, Ala. He also served as director of coaching for the Rocket City Kicks Soccer Club in Huntsville and is currently a staff coach for the Tennessee Olympic Development Program (ODP).
The Jamaica native received his bachelor's in computer science and mathematics from the University of Alabama-Huntsville in 1989. He holds a National "A" Coaching License from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) as well as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Premier Diploma. Rhoden played collegiately at Alabama-Huntsville, where he earned numerous athletic and academic awards. Prior to his four-year playing career at UAH, Rhoden played with the youth national team of Jamaica as well as Real Mona FC.
Rhoden and his wife, Tara, live in Murfreesboro with their daugher, Ashley.