Stronghold Soccer Club

About Us

What is Stronghold Soccer Club?

SSC is a premier-level soccer academy committed to preparing players to compete at the highest levels.

For most it's participation on college varsities (including admission to competitive schools and some financial assistance), for a select few it may mean professional play. Others, it may mean a positive experience on their high school teams and enjoyable years of skillful play in adult and senior leagues. Besides the physical skills developed, SSC acclimates players to handling the pressures and mental adjustments necessary at all levels of competitive play.

What is a premier soccer academy?

A premier academy is one dedicated to taking talented players and developing them as far as their abilities and their dispositions will allow.

Four elements must work together for a successful Premier Program:

  1. PLAYERS Must be good athletes with the desire to fully develop their skills; as they mature, players must also dedicate themselves by determining that soccer will be their primary (if not sole) competitive sport.
  2. TRAINING Qualified, professional-level coaches who can train the players on technical skills and tactical play, guide them through competitive game situations and develop effective mental approaches to the game both on and off the field.
  3. YEAR-ROUND COMMITMENT An understanding that learning a skill and mastering it are two different things. Premier academys develop programs that encompass a twelve month commitment.
  4. AGGRESSIVE SCHEDULING Most physically adept athletes can learn a skill. The goal is to reproduce it AT PACE AND UNDER PRESSURE. To achieve this, players must be honed against the stiffest competition appropriate for their age and development, both in league play and at tournaments, outdoors and indoors. In addition, scheduling is also strategically used as a barometer of team development and academy strength, and in the later years for showcasing players for the next level.

How much time does the player commit to the team? How much training does the academy provide?

U9 through U14 teams enjoy a fall season, indoor season, spring season and a limited summer tournament schedule. The fall and spring seasons typically involve three sessions a week, two training days and a gameday, occasionally the reverse. The indoor season consists of one weekly training session, supplemented by either a weekly indoor league or periodic indoor tournament events. Teams will usually enter a number of tournaments over the course of the year, three or four in the fall and two or three in the spring. Teams will train the week before mid-summer tournaments. Trainers will also designate certain weeks between seasons as necessary player downtime.

U15-U18 teams have similar winter indoor, spring, and summer schedules. However, the fall differs due to high school varsity commitments.

Older teams typically train about once every 2-3 weeks during the fall, usually Sunday mornings, in September and October, to stay together and to provide opportunities to work out new players and prospects. The team then trains normally in November thru mid-December, and either plays a mini-season such as MAPS provides or enters several tournaments and showcases, before heading indoors.

Where does SSC draw players from?

The academy is centrally located in New Jersey in the scenic rolling hills of the Peapack-Gladstone area. Nonetheless, SSC players historically have represented a state-wide constituency. Players have been identified representing 16 of the state's 21 counties.

What are the financial commitments at SSC?

Players join the academy for the entire seasonal year from July 1st through June 30th, and a contractual obligation is signed to pay for the entire year. The academy is committing one of its limited number of roster spots to the player, and is basing its operational team budget on spreading the costs among all players committing to the team.

The operating budget for the year per player (U11 - U14) is about $2150, for U15 - U19 about $1650, which incorporates academy fees and coaching fees only. Each team budget may vary due to the amount of tournaments entered, i.e., some teams may have an aggressive tournament schedule requiring additional funds. Uniforms are typically purchased every two years and are not included in the annual fee.

What is included in the academy fees?

This includes Training fees for a primary trainer and a secondary trainer, outdoor facilities, indoor training facility in winter, insurance, communications and various other items.

When are payments due?

The first $775 deposit is due when a player signs with the team, and then payments are collected in two additional increments. Since many outlays are well in advance of the event (tournament fees, registrations, etc.), increment intervals are compressed rather than spread.

For U9-U14 teams, payment schedule is: initial deposit by May 29th, then an additional payment on September 1st ($700), November 1st ($675).

For U15-U18 teams, payment schedule is: initial $775 deposit upon acceptance of a spot, then an additional payment of the balance on January 15.

How are SSC coaches selected?

All SSC coaches have been rigorously evaluated by the four-person Coaches Steering Committee before being assigned a team as a Primary Trainer / Head Coach. Each brings something unique to the academy in terms of experience and training. In short, the coaching group brings to the academy a rich background of knowledge and experience to pass along to SSC players, and many are even professionally trained as instructors and teachers.

Mindful that players benefit from different perspectives, styles and experience backgrounds, the club is institutionalizing cross-training so that players are exposed to the different trainers in the system. As an initial measure, teams are being formally assigned a secondary trainer. Also teams periodically have their trainers rotated from one seasonal year to the next. Clinics and skills sessions conducted independently of team training promote such broader exposure, as do the recommended team training weeks during the summer.

How is the academy operated?

The academy has traditionally been a coach-driven organization, with substantive soccer, policy and operational decisions handled by the Coaches Committee, headed by a small working Coaches Steering Committee drawn from the most senior members.

Organizational items are handled by a Board of Officers, who supervise facilities and budget issues, handle administrative matters with leagues and state organizations, and conduct fund-raising activities. Currently, the Officers include President Tony Bednarsky and Vice President Vin Ricciardi.

academy also has a professional Administrative Director who supervises day-to-day issues such as scheduling and ref assignments, and also addresses long-term strategic issues such as development programs, growth, recruitment and player placement. Much of this work is done individually and collectively with members of the Team Managers Committee, which communicates regularly with the Administrator and formally meets on a quarterly basis.

What other development programs does the academy offer?

Players are encouraged to develop their skills beyond the team training sessions by attending camps and clinics. 

  1. GOALKEEPER TRAINING - Friday evenings. Three courses a year, of 6-8 sessions each. Spring & Fall outdoors, Winter indoors.
  2. SOCCER SPEED SKILL - Two courses of 10 sessions each fall and spring season held at the Gill St. Bernard's School by professional speed and agility trainers.
  3. STREET SOCCER - Friday evenings, Spring & Fall. Supervised, but uncoached scrimmages to foster creativity and problem solving by the player themself.
  4. 3 v 3 COMPETITION - The academy embraces this format for skill development, and runs special optional workouts. The academy has won National Championships in years past, and placed numerous teams in the National Finals.

What about the showcase years?

The older teams attend college showcase events commensurate with the level of the team involved. To show well at such events, teams resume training immediately after the high school season concludes.

For players serious about college play, the 
academy provides seminars and is available by phone to help out, whether to provide sample soccer resumes, discuss an email campaign or make a warranted phone call. SSC coaches will help out in any way possible, and gladly discuss candidates with their desired schools.

Does SSC have a policy about players playing up in age?

Players are free to try out for any age team they feel is appropriate for their physical maturity and skill level. Nonetheless, experience has shown that only the truly exceptional player successfully plays up regularly on a team that is competing at the highest levels. After evaluating a player, the SSC coaching staff may recommend a position on a team different than the one for which the player tried out.

It should be noted that there are numerous occasions that players do play up on SSC teams. Some teams encompass a two year age group, and participate at an appropriate level of competition. Sometimes a player will be asked to guest with an older team within the 
academy to evaluate the players ability under more strenuous circumstances. SSC routinely double-cards players with both USYSA and US Club Soccer passes; the latter would allow player movement among academy teams on as much as a weekly basis.

Can SSC players still guest with other teams or be secondary carded?

SSC trainers prefer to supervise their players instruction, and their amount of competition in a given period. The academy reserves the right to grant permission to guest elsewhere, and only if games are well-spaced from SSC events. Other than occasional transition situations, secondary cards will only be permitted among SSC teams.

What do Evaluators judge at tryouts?

Four primary criteria: Speed (including technical speed and quickness), Touch (first touch, foot skills, comfort with ball), Aggressiveness (going to ball, winning challenges, defending confidently), Mental Game (reads field, makes decisions, handles pressure, organizes mates). If a player has a good base, our trainers will teach the rest. We prefer to evaluate prospective players at our regular training sessions over a period of time in addition to traditional tryouts.

After Tryouts, how does the academy get back to prospects?

Within a week of the last tryout, a academy rep will phone or email all candidates whom the academy has identified for the Age Group Player Pool. That contact will either offer a roster spot or advise of the next step. SSC will make sure it gets word through to identified players. Nonetheless, if in doubt that you may have missed our call, email (or call) the Director of Operations.

How does the academy communicate?

Our website is a fountain of information. Browse it to see the leagues teams play in, tournaments they attend, academy history, etc. The site is laced with contact names, as well as team and action photos.

Most team communications are routed through the Team Managers who do yeoman service in dealing with the myriad of details necessary to keep a team functioning. Their names, phone numbers and email addresses are listed on the website with their individual teams.

Parental Behavior

We have professional coaches who want the team (and its individual players) to perform at its peak, know what to say, when to talk to on field players, and when not to. No coaching is allowed by parents or spectators at any time during training or games. Shouting abuse or any comments at the opponent team, referees or coaches will not be tolerated. If this does occur, you will be informed in writing of the academy's disciplinary action, which may result in the removal of your child from the team or you, the parent, may be banned from watching any practice and/or any games home and away. If you have to shout (we prefer you didn't) encouragement is all that will be accepted.

Questions? Contact SSC Vice President, Vin Ricciardi by email at or by phone at 201-602-0384.