When Middle Tennessee began its search for the third soccer coach in program history in 2002, athletic department officials sought a proven winner, a fierce competitor, a strong recruiter and someone who would successfully build on the foundation that was laid when the Blue Raiders began the program in 1996. Middle Tennessee got all of that, and more, as Aston Rhoden has built a proven winner in his first three years leading the Blue Raiders.
Rhoden took on the job of building a young program in 2002 and just three years later his Blue Raiders have enjoyed unprecedented success. In three seasons at Middle Tennessee, Rhoden has led the program to 33 wins, consecutive winning seasons for the first time in school history and the Blue Raiders captured their first conference championship in soccer in 2004 when they won the Sun Belt. Rhoden is Middle Tennessee's all-time winningest coach with a mark of 33-23-5 entering his fourth season. The veteran coach led the team to a school-record 12 wins in 2003 and then the squad went one step beyond in 2004 when it set another standard for single-season wins with 13.
Rhoden's coaching has elevated his players to unknown levels of success and Middle Tennessee's fast-paced, attacking style has not only resulted in a top-notch defensive squad, but fans were awed by an offensive unit rated No. 3 in the nation in 2004.
Middle Tennessee suddenly has found a way to become one of the premier teams in the Sun Belt under Rhoden, whose team's are 11-2-4 in conference play during the past two seasons, including six wins in 2004 which represents the most league wins in soccer history. Rhoden's solid work has been rewarded as he was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004.
Furthermore, his players have excelled on the field and in the classroom. Rhoden has signed the SBC Newcomer of the Year in each of his first three seasons and the 2005 signing class has been rated No. 1 in the Sun Belt and among the top 55 classes nationally by SoccerBuzz.com. He 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 10 of his players have earned All-Conference honors during the past two seasons.
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. Debs Brereton became the program's first Player of the Year in 2004 when she was so honored by the Sun Belt after scorching the nets for a Middle Tennessee single-season record 19 goals. Rhoden also has developed the No. 1 and No. 2 all-time leading goal producers in program history in Laura Miguez and Danielle LaDuke, respectively. Miguez completed her Middle Tennessee career in 2004 after becoming the school's all-time leader in goals, points and assists. Success, indeed has been prevalent on Rhoden's watch. Middle Tennessee's winning percentage in the three years prior to Rhoden's arrival was 47 percent. The Blue Raiders have won 59 percent of their games during Rhoden's first three seasons and the team has increased its win total in each of those campaigns. Rhoden's teams haven't only been successful, they have been record setting. He has coached two of the top three scoring teams in school history, including a squad that poured in a single-season record 69 goals in 2004. His Blue Raider squads also hold the school record for wins, winning percentage, most goals scored, most assists, and fewest goals allowed.
On top of turning the program's fortunes around on the field, Rhoden also set goals to improve the program in recruiting. He has delivered immediately, signing three consecutive Sun Belt Newcomers of the Year.
SoccerBuzz.com rated Rhoden's 2005 signing class No. 1 in the Sun Belt and among the Top 55 nationally. The success in recruiting has led to Middle Tennessee's elevated success on the field and led to improved attendance in each of his seasons.
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 22-4-1 at home under Rhoden, including a perfect 9-0 mark in 2004.
Not only does Rhoden emphasize winning on the field and in the weight room, but he stresses excelling in the classroom as well, as evidenced by 49 student-athletes earning All-SBC academic accolades during the previous three seasons.
Rhoden became the head coach at Middle Tennessee after serving at North Alabama in Florence, Ala., in the same capacity for six seasons. At North Alabama, Rhoden started the 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 the staff coach for the Alabama Youth Soccer Association since 1993 and as an assistant soccer coach at Randolph High School In Huntsville, Ala. He also served as the 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, earning the Leadership Award in 1988 and being named the school's Outstanding Student-Athlete for 1985-86. Following his four-year playing career at UAH, Rhoden served as a graduate teaching assistant at UAH for a year and began coaching youth soccer teams in Huntsville in 1989. In addition to his time at UAH, Rhoden's playing experience includes time on the Jamaican Youth National Team in 1980-81, playing on the Real Mona FC, Division I Major League team in Jamaica from 1981-84 and playing on the Shamrock FC, Division I Adult Soccer League team in Huntsville since 1990.