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A 5 Year Apprenticeship - Gareth Thomson

'Be kind and give time to everyone you meet, a lot of my career is owed to creating good relationships with people and being consistent. This takes time, never rush the process...'

Name, age, where you are based?

Gareth Thomson, 25, Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Originally from Paisley, Scotland.

Current Role:

I am currently the Senior Head Coach at Sunshine Coast FC in the Football Queensland Premier League (3rd Tier of Australian Football).


Currently hold my FFA B Licence which I completed in Sydney between 2018/2019. Planning to do my A licence in 2021.

How did you get into coaching And what has your path been like?

Wow, it all started 10 years ago working with a local club called Houston United FC. I played local grassroots from a young age and I fell out of love with playing by the age of 15. I really owe a lot to a friend’s dad, Dave Litherland who took me under his wing and mentored me for the first couple of years of my coaching. I was with Houston United for 4-5 years before moving on to working with a local women’s club along with my role with Celtic Fc’s international program.

After working hard and proving myself I eventually coached within Celtic’s development centre along with academy coaching roles, first with Dumbarton FC (Under 15’s) and then Queens Park (Under 13’s). I was fortunate in my role with Celtic that I travelled a lot internationally, one thing led to another and in 2017 I had a one way ticket to New Zealand! I didn’t even pack a jacket, little did i know it rained half the year!

My first role in NZ I worked as manager of a private coaching company, after 6 months I moved to work with a local club called Tauranga City FC as their Head of Youth.

After two fantastic years in New Zealand, I moved to Queensland at the end of 2018.

Any Major achievements? Any Volunteering? Any funny stories?

Well I never got paid a penny for my first 5 years coaching! I find it funny that most coaches don’t seem to serve an ‘apprenticeship’ these days.

I wouldn’t single out a particular moment but I’m proud to have been able to have a positive impact in a lot of young player’s lives over the years.

Every year that I remain full time in football (my 5th season) I count my blessings as it’s the best career in the world but also a very unforgiving and cut-throat industry.

How valuable was it for your career plans, to make the move from grassroots football to a club academy set up?

It was massive for me, I had definitely plateaued as a coach and was too within my comfort zone when working in grassroots. I remember a lot of bad sessions and questioning moments in that first initial year of working in academies but eventually I found my rhythm.

What was it like working at Queens Park and Dumbarton and what were the expectations from the clubs’ academies?

Two very different clubs, Dumbarton’s academy has now folded and it wasn’t very well financially supported by the club in my time there however, there were some very good people involved.

Queens Park was definitely a highlight for me, the players were fantastic, great facilities and a top Head of Youth in Gardiner Speirs, who gave you a lot of freedom but also a kick up the arse when you needed it.

How was your New Zealand Experience and was it a shock to the system?

I will be the first to admit that I was a bit naive when heading out to New Zealand. It took me six months to settle in and fully understand what I wanted out of the experience. My first role was with a private academy and was very sales focused which didn’t sit particularly well with me. There was a lot of pressure on me to hit targets but little support in actually allowing me to do that.

After 6 months with that academy I began work with Tauranga City FC as their Head of Youth Football. It was a fantastic period in my career and the committee I worked with were fantastic, I have a lot of fond memories and much to thank those people for.

How did you get the original gig with Sunshine Coast Fire, and how’s your journey been at the club to becoming their Head Coach?

My (now) wife Maddison is originally a Kiwi but all her family have since moved to the Sunshine Coast. The main purpose for our move was so that we could be closer to her family. I had a mutual friend with the ex-Head Coach at the club (Richard Hudson) and he kindly put me in touch with the club Technical Director Melvyn. After 6 months of back and forth, we were on the plane and on our way to Oz!

In my first year with the club I was the SAP (U8-12) Director and U18 Coach. The first year was very much just me finding my feet in Australian football and understanding the landscape here.

I had a pretty successful first year at the club and the opportunity came to coach the Senior team for the 2020 season and I'm now 5th months in and loving it. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the club T.D Melvyn Wilkes who I consider a mentor and a friend.

As a Head Coach at the age of 25, how are you finding it and what are the main differences from your past roles, in your opinion?

It’s a new experience for me. Probably the most challenging role I have held with regards to the stakes and time I put into it. I am enjoying it though, we’ve put together a very strong playing group who all add something to the team.

I try to make it very much a two way dialogue, we have set playing principles but the players have freedom to make that come to life in the way they picture it. For me coaching is 70% social interaction and 30% tactical coaching, the atmosphere at training and enjoying what we do comes first for me.

What things have been challenging in your current or past roles and is there anything you would do differently next time?

I’ve had my ups and downs but I wouldn’t change a second, everything I’ve done has led me to where I am now. Failures and success come hand and hand, you can’t have one without the other.

Any advice for coaches looking to make the jump into managing or coaching at senior level, and in your opinion, what would be an affective way to make that jump?

Be patient! If you need to force your way into a role, you probably aren’t ready yet. For me, everything has been kind of a natural development but it all starts with hard work, consistency and learning your craft.

Be kind and give time to everyone you meet, a lot of my career is owed to creating good relationships with people and being consistent. This takes time, never rush the process.

Would you recommend coaches abroad and why you would or wouldn’t? any advice?

100%. Moving abroad changed my life in such a positive way. The best thing about moving abroad apart from the lifestyle is that it’s opened roles for me that would have been closed in the UK.

My advice is - Do your homework on the people you’ll be working for (if your gut says it isn’t right, it probably isn’t) and never take your opportunity or the people who gave it to you for granted. Always check visa conditions and get firm contractual commitments before taking a role.

Where do you get your inspiration from/Any inspiring words for others?

I find most of my inspiration outside of football to be honest. I’m constantly inspired by my mum and dad who have supported me every step of the way. Also my wife Maddison, who inspires me to be a better person every day.

What’s next ?

In ten years? Who knows! Right now my focus is on this season and my current role, I want to make sure I’m doing right by my players and staff.

I’m always open to helping others or discussing projects, and you can contact me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you’d like to chat;

LinkedIn: GarethRThomson

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