Coach Nick Thompson was hired by Dr. Nancy Detwiler in hopes of doing just that: coaching, and doing it incredibly well.
Thompson seeks to change the mindset of the men’s soccer program at ENC and instill a distinct winners’ mentality into his players. This task has not been easy, however, and will be a process that takes both patience and continued effort. The team has shown small improvements by increasing their winning total from five to eight wins this season, but this is only the beginning of their journey; for the team to vastly improve, they must start again from the bottom.
Coach Thompson believes one of the biggest changes that has to be made in order to succeed is to help create an identity and internal pride within the program.
“Identity is simply who you are and pride is the extent to which you care about your identity,” states Thompson. “We want our identity to be a group that is mature, responsible, does well in the classroom, leaders on campus, great team culture, works hard, disciplined, and servant leaders.”
If all of these things matter to the group as a whole, Thompson believes the team will make great strides in becoming a truly successful program. As the leader of the team, it’s his job to keep the team on track, and he plans on holding his players accountable in every aspect. A successful program in his mind starts off the field. By having the right mindset and mentality, he feels that he is helping the team take steps in the right direction, which will in turn breed on the field of success.
What makes Coach Thompson the right guy to turn around the ENC men’s soccer program? He’s been around soccer his entire life, has been successful on and off the field, and knows what it takes to be successful.
Prior to ENC, Thompson was the lead assistant coach at California Baptist University for a year. He describes his time there as, “a good experience, big school environment, great athletics programs, I learned a lot and got to coach girls.”
Before that he was the lead assistant coach at Gordon College for a couple of years. He also was a volunteer at the Naval Academy and North Carolina State University, where he began coaching right out of college.
Thompson has seen soccer at many different levels and can call on his experience to help lead ENC in the right direction. Having coached and volunteered at larger and smaller schools, he feels comfortable in a multitude of environments.
Coach Thompson has also been very successful as a player. He attended Messiah College where he was a part of three national championship teams (2008-2010). He was an All-American, All-Region, and All-Conference player in his years there. He played professionally after college for the Carolina Railhawaks in the NASL, which is right below the MLS. After playing one year of professional soccer he decided that coaching was the route he wanted to take.
It’s easy to see that Coach Thompson has garnered the respect of many of his players by the way he coaches them. Junior David Eddings believes Coach Thompson is an incredible leader by being incredibly blunt with his intentions.
“Coach is a straightforward guy. He has a clear expectation of what he wants from us and he clearly communicates that with us. Coach Nick is a strong leader who cares about us on and off the field,” Eddings said.
Being such a successful player and coach at many levels has made Thompson into the type of competitor that strives for greatness.
“I would describe my coaching style in a couple ways that almost seem contradictory,” says Thompson. “I am intense, demanding, and competitive. I am a winner, I have won at every level that I have played and coached at and that is something that drives me as a coach and as a person.”
Although winning is important to Coach Thompson, it isn’t the most important. He believes the trust with his players and relationships he builds with them are very important as well.
“It is not my purpose as a coach to win, which I think is key,” he says. “If your purpose as a coach is simply to win then you will have a shallow experience, but it does drive me and I want to be successful extremely bad. I also value the guys I coach and want to get to know them on a deeper level and be someone that they can trust and is important in their lives if they want and need that.”
There is a fine line between coach and friend, and Thompson knows this. At some point you have to coach your team hard, and they might not like that. There are also times when players need the coach to be compassionate and know he cares about them as people as well.
“It can sometimes be a tricky line to walk because as their coach I am an authority figure over them but I also want them to know that I have their backs and they are always my guys,” Coach says.
Everyone has somebody in their life that impacts and helps them get to a higher place in their lives. For Coach Thompson, his high school and college coaches are two people that have done a great deal for him in his life.
“They are two men that have molded and shaped me into the man I am today, and guys that challenged and pushed me to grow during a huge part of my life,” he said.
He feels that those two coaches had such a profound impact on him that he wanted to do the same for others. This really set in his sophomore year of college, and has stayed with him ever since.
“Obviously, I love soccer and teaching the game,” he explains, “but even more than that I wanted the opportunity to impact younger guy’s lives in a way that would have a lasting impact on them because of the way I was affected and continue to be affected by my coaches.”
Coach Thompson still has an uphill battle in turning around the program. The Lions increased their win total this season but still failed to win a conference game last year, and Thompson must figure out ways for the Lions to become a threat in the CCC. Thompson says that if the team can change its mentality and belief in each other and the program, they will begin to see success on the field.
The team will be returning all but three of its players from last year, which is huge when it comes to turning around a program. The team will have tons of continuity, as well as experience, which they hope will bring success. They also have Andrew Nelson, who was first team all-conference returning for his Junior year, where he looks to help lead the team in the right direction.
Coach Thompson—with all of his successes in his playing and coaching career—looks to foster a winning mentality and culture here at ENC as the next notch under his belt. To change the mentality of the program, he must first begin with changing the mindset of those in the program.