RHSC board members
Matt Marmet, president
Frankie Ruiz, vice president of Select
Stacy Bergsmith, registrar
Susan Fortenberry, member
Drew Corbett, public relations/sponsorships
David Kaye, at-large member
Note: Jennifer Hampton, Academy coach and director, and Chris Young, recreational technical director, are hired staff and do not serve on the board.
The Richmond Hill Soccer Club has evolved over the years.
Since its founding in 1992, this organization has taken on a new name, new leadership and a new vision for what soccer in Richmond Hill should be. As the program has evolved, it has grown to field recreational and competitive soccer teams.
Jennifer Hampton, director and coach for RHSC Pre-Academy and Academy, has become a fixture in the local soccer community, but it wasn’t always that way.
In 2008, a job opportunity for her husband, Josh, opened a door that brought the Hampton family to Richmond Hill from Maryland. Shortly after her arrival, the former soccer player saw how she could play a role in the Richmond Hill Soccer Club.
Jennifer Hampton grew up playing soccer. She was a Steamers and Top Hat Georgia Club Soccer state champion several times over. She played for one of the state’s top soccer programs, AAAAAA Parkview High School in Lilburn. Hampton was a four-year starter and captain for her high-school team. From there, Hampton went on to play Division I soccer for the U.S. Military Academy and again served as team captain.
After graduating from West Point with a Bachelor of Science in engineering management, she was stationed in Washington state for her active-duty Army commitment. Her full time job was with the Medical Service Corps working on environmental compliance for the western half of the U.S.
After arriving in Richmond Hill, it wasn’t long before she got plugged into the program through her own children. In fall 2009, Hampton committed to coaching her oldest daughter Ashley’s U-6 Recreational Team. It wasn’t until Ashley’s U-9 year that she first coached an Academy team, in fall 2012.
The following summer, Hampton was hired at tryout time as coach and director.
“The director position came about, and I felt like I could effect change with my administrative skills as well as my coaching skills,” she said.
“The (previous) person had resigned, and I felt like I had what it takes.”
She continues to coach and assist with boys’ and girls’ teams throughout Academy.
Hampton is one ingredient in a multifaceted program.
The recreational-league, Pre-Academy, Academy and Select teams are all part of this working machine molding soccer players as young as 3 years old.
“RHSC is nonprofit. We are not about making a salary,” she said. “We are out there for the love of the game and the love of the kids. We know our kids by name and truly want to see them succeed. Our motives are pure because we are not restricted by cash flow.”
Shelli Rey, an RHSC parent, said, “Both of my girls, ages 15 and 11, reached a point where they needed more technical training, and RHSC offered this option. There are several clubs in Savannah, but being that we live in Richmond Hill, we wanted to try staying local if possible. Angel Marquez has coached both of my daughters and has been coaching soccer for several years. Now with RHSC having a partnership with Storm, the Pre-Academy and Academy kids have the benefit of both our coaches and Storm’s coaching staff to teach and mentor our kids.”
Hampton realizes her methods and strategies aren’t necessarily the most popular. This program is being built on “teaching cutting-edge soccer,” and soccer is more than just kicking a ball, scoring and winning, she said.
“The focus has been on improving the curriculum and lesson plans and getting everyone on the same sheet of music,” she said. “Not everyone understands that soccer has to be taught in a curriculum-based environment.”
Doing this allows coaches and trainers to meet the appropriate growth for each kid. According to Hampton, “Possession soccer is what is being taught at national training centers. You have to be able to work the ball out of the back by passing.”
The real payoff from this type of training comes with time.
“It is really about the process,” she said. “Winning is important, but we are really focused more on training them up at a level that will take them where they need to go based on skill level. The building blocks are here for providing your kid with quality training. RHSC Pre-Academy, Academy and Select Teams are teaching cutting-edge soccer. These programs give you the right level of training and it is here locally, at half the cost of what Savannah clubs charge.”
There is much more to being a teacher and coach than soccer skills. It is about connections and personable skills.
“There are still winners and losers out here but we are working on building a school of thought,” Hampton said.
RHSC’s reputation is growing, and the coaches and trainers hope residents will keep their kids in Richmond Hill to promote even more growth. For more information on what this program offers, cost and travel requirements go to www.richmondhillsc.com and read the Newcomer’s Guide.
Richmond Hill is a transient area, and “a lot of good soccer talent moves through here,” Hampton said. The guide will help answer many parents’ questions.
With more than 500 kids across the various levels of programs, having the lighted field space to play is important for the programs to continue to grow and develop. While others are canceling practice because of wet fields, DeVaul Henderson Park offers lighted turf fields that enable teams to continue practicing year round.
The goal for the future of RHSC is not just about growth in numbers, but growth in quality.
Hampton says “Pre-Academy and Academy goals are for individual player development in a local setting, in a league that generally plays in Savannah and the surrounding area; it does not have large travel commitments.” RHSC offers legitimate options for kids looking to advance their soccer skills while staying here in the community. Summer training sessions kick off this week and will continue on throughout the summer. Soccer for RHSC is turning into a year round sport.
“The building blocks are here for providing your kid with quality training,” Hampton said. “We are teaching cutting edge soccer, and we are doing this right here in Richmond Hill.”
Rey, the RHSC parent, added, “Jennifer Hampton, the Academy director, has brought the program a long way in the time she has held that position. Her very strong soccer background, both as a player and coach, has been an asset to strengthening and improving this program. She was instrumental in the creation of the partnership between Storm and RHSC. I strongly feel my daughter Hailey’s training from Academy and Select was instrumental in helping her acquire a position on the Richmond Hill High School girls varsity soccer team as a freshman. As a result of the Academy and Select teams, both of my girls are confident, skilled soccer players who have benefited greatly from these programs and who continue to grow to be the best players they can be.”