Thompson’s vision for BAA’s bright future
Calm and measured is how he wants BAA’s sides to play, in a micro-mirror image of the current Holland and Spain national teams whose framed pictures adorn the walls of his office, tucked away at the rear of the BAA clubhouse.
It’s a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the school corridors at CedarBridge Academy where Thompson worked until he relinquished his teaching responsibilities to become BAA’s full-time Football Director last July.
His remit has been to completely overhaul the First Division side’s entire coaching programme by setting up an academy for young players of all standards, aged between 6 and 16.
It’s an unprecedented role, at the Bermudian club level at least, although Thompson isn’t quite stepping into uncharted waters having previously worked as the Bermuda Football Association’s full-time youth director.
“I think I’m probably more busy than when I was at CedarBridge and the days are certainly longer,” said Thompson. “I get in at around 9am and sometimes I don’t leave the training pitch until 9pm. You’re never far away from the job, it’s not your general 9-to-5 type of role.
“I enjoy teaching, I miss the day-to-day contact with the students and colleagues but this is a tremendous role for me as football is my passion.”
Much of Thompson’s day is laptop driven where he sifts his way through the necessary administrative work. That is until around 4pm when the football programme springs into action and Thompson swaps his smart office attire for BAA training gear.
“Once BAA laid down the artificial pitch the next step was to bring in someone to take the programme further,” said the ex-Somerset Eagles coach. “It’s probably the first time there’s been a full-time Football Director in Bermuda but I’ve travelled to some of the biggest clubs in Europe so from that standpoint I think I’ve definitely prepared myself for it. On the other hand there are administrative aspects to the role which can be a heavy load.
“It was a no-brainer when I initially started speaking to BAA about the role. It was pleasing they understood someone couldn’t do it part-time. It’s a fantastic role for me but it’s a really challenging one. It’s not as easy as some people may think it is.”
Throughout the week more than 200 youngsters descend on BAA Field, the million dollar artificial training pitch, to learn to play the Thompson way, where winning is secondary to technical development.
So far the academy have nine teams from under-8s to under-16 as well as a group of around 50 six-year-olds who take part in a fun-flavoured practice session every Saturday morning.
“We have a tremendous team of coaches who are really working hard to achieve big things at BAA,” said Thompson. “We’ve seen a lot of improvements in our players already although our focus is not on winning matches at the developmental stage.
“It’s easy to say something’s working based on winning but we look at things in a completely different way. We put the winning to one side and look at the quality of performance.
“There’s too much emphasis on winning at a young age in Bermuda. That’s a big problem for me. The technical tools and game awareness tools are more important at a young age. In the long-run technique and intelligence wins.”
In the not-to-distant future Thompson’s envisages BAA becoming a powerhouse at the domestic level. Around half of Maurice Lowe’s first team squad is made up of the BAA under-16s team, many of whom previously played at Thompson’s Somerset-based Academy.
“We like to expose our 16-year-old players to the first team as soon as possible,” said Thompson, who attends all first team games. “They’ve lost to the division’s top teams like Somerset Trojans, Robin Hood and MR Onions which you would expect because we have a very young team. On the whole I’ve been very impressed with their performance and our head coach Maurice Lowe is doing a tremendous job.
“Eventually we want to develop really high quality football players and have a team in the Premier Division competing for trophies. We do face a challenge going forward because we expect many of our best young players to travel abroad to attend school and therefore they will be unable to represent our first team. But that’s a good thing, that’s what we want.”
Thompson has a long history of developing Bermudian players. It was he who first alerted Ipswich to Reggie Lambe’s potential, having organised for the gifted youngster to travel to Holland to experience the technical and physical demands of the European game prior to him signing for Town.
Several of last season’s Bermuda Hogges players were nurtured at Thompson’s Academy and he hopes to be equally prolific and churning out tomorrow’s national team stars at BAA.
“It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see the likes of Troy Tucker, Daniel Andrade, Rakeem DeShields, Tahj Bell, Jaylon Bather and Roger Lee representing the Bermuda Under-20 national team and as well as playing for the Hogges,” he said. “It’s nice to know there was a part we played in their football development. For sure, we expect to see many players from BAA go on to play for the Bermuda national team.”
Thompson, a Howard University graduate, who holds both United States Soccer Federation ‘A’ and ‘B’ License coaching certification, has also established a goalkeeping programme at BAA run by one of his former national team assistants George Hayward.
But developing talented young footballers isn’t Thompson’s only mission at BAA. He hopes to use the academy as a vehicle to help combat some of the Island’s social ills, and for it to be a place where they can also learn important life skills.
He added: “We’re in the process of educating the players in sport science and nutrition. We’re also setting up a homework club with the help of one of our sponsors. I strongly believe football can be a vehicle to aid social and educational development.”
BAA Wanderers are sponsored by Lindos, Allied World, HWP, PartnerRe, Argus, Logic, Glidden, Nestle, Gatorade and Cheerios.