Coach Development

Q+A – Tristan Thomas

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

When I was in my teens and still at school, I began creating tactical analysis online in the format of articles and videos, and used my twitter account to promote the content. I found a real passion for football tactics and analysis, and my colleagues at tactical website encouraged me to start coaching.

I earned my FA Level 1 and Level 2 coaching licenses while volunteering in youth football locally. I also began freelance opposition scouting work for various non-league clubs.

In 2016, I got the opportunity to move to Boston, MA in the United States to work full-time in a youth soccer club. There I really developed my coaching due to the amount of hours I got out on the field. Alongside coaching my teams, I became in charge of coach education in the New England region. Sharing ideas among fellow coaches, and helping them develop is something that I really enjoyed doing.

In the summer of 2018, I moved back to the UK. I got a role coaching in Aldershot Town’s academy, as a lead coach in the YDP and assisting in the PDP. Alongside this, I continued my freelance scouting and analysis work, as well assuming a variety of other part-time coaching roles. This included volunteering in non-league and working for programs such as Soccer Chance Academy and Coerver Coaching.

In the summer of 2020, I got the opportunity to coach briefly in Sweden with Ytterhogdals IK, before moving the the Czech Republic, where I worked for one year as a tactical analyst/consultant for 11Hacks. My full-time role in Prague involved working closely with Head Coaches to analyse matches and opponents, and use data and video analysis to suggest how they can improve performance. I also worked with professional players, using the data and video in individual development sessions. Overall, it was a brilliant experience working with some of the biggest clubs in Central Europe, such as Legia Warsaw and Viktoria Plzen.

This opportunity in Prague led me to my next role, as assistant coach and analyst at DAC Dunajska Streda. DAC are one of the biggest clubs in Slovakia, and I relished the opportunity to work with some top professional players and staff. We competed in the qualifiers for the UEFA Conference League, and achieved a fourth placed finish in the league, thus qualifying for the Conference League the following season.

After deciding to return to the UK for personal reasons, I spent the 2022/23 season as a first team coach and analyst at Aldershot Town. Returning to Aldershot was a great move, and getting to work once again with Ross McNeilly was one of the main reasons that attracted me back to the club. Under Ross, we managed to save ‘The Shots’ from relegation, taking the club from 23rd in the league to as high as 12th. We also had a good run to the quarter finals of the FA Trophy. I left Aldershot after Ross’ departure in April. After agreeing a role as a Head Coach in Sweden, I wasn’t able to get a work permit in time, so I’m currently looking for my next role in the game.

What is it about your role that you love?

I love the tactical side of the game; dedicating hours of study to seeing how an opponent plays, and their strengths and weaknesses, and then creating a strategy on how to exploit those weaknesses. The part of my role I enjoy the most is those discussions in front of the tactics board and TV screen with my colleagues, debating things about our team, the opposition, or just football in general.

What have you found different from coaching in the UK? Are there any challenges that you currently face or have previously faced from coaching abroad?

Obviously working in a dressing room with different nationalities, cultures and languages presents its own challenges. At DAC we had a very multicultural squad, and in one game we even played with 11 different nationalities on the pitch! One way to overcome these challenges is try to get to know every person in the club as an individual. Creating a relationship of mutual respect can supersede any problems that a language barrier may create. Also, I’ve tried to pick up bits of different languages as I’ve travelled around, and I’ve been learning Spanish for a couple of years.

Are there any countries that you would love to coach in? If so, why?

My journey in analysis and coaching hasn’t been by design – I’ve simply gone wherever I’ve been able to find the best opportunity to push myself and develop. The location isn’t really of my concern, I just want to work at the highest level possible, and with people that can help me improve. However, I’d love to experience working in South America one day. I’ve never been to that part of the world, but the football culture there seems special. Also, I’ve always had an affinity for Italian football, and the atmosphere has been incredible at the Serie A games I’ve been to.

Do you have a preferred style to coaching?

I don’t believe there is one correct way to play, coach, or analyse the game. I think the multitude of different styles is was makes football so great and interesting. However, I’d like to think my own philosophy towards football is quite detail-orientated and intrinsic. I think if you look after the small details, they can add up into something greater. I also think creating personal connections with the players is important. You don’t have to be best friends, but there needs to be a level of mutual respect in order to create a fruitful working relationship.

What is your next step? What is your long term aim?

To be honest, I have no idea what my next step is. I was disappointed not to be able to go to Sweden, as I would have relished the challenge of being a head coach. As I mentioned, I’m just looking for any opportunity, preferably in professional football, where I can continue to develop my skills and work alongside great people.

Any tips for other coaches out there in regards to coaching? What about tips for coaching abroad?

I don’t think I’m in a position to give out too much coaching or football wisdom, but my one tip for new coaches generally would be to take advantage of a wide range of coach development opportunities. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve fully invested myself in absorbing as much information as possible, whether that’s articles, podcasts, videos, courses etc.. However, you then also need the experience out on the pitch to go and use that knowledge. I’d therefore also suggest that getting as many quality coaching hours as possible is important.

In terms of coaching abroad, my only piece of advice would be to jump in and do it. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in the position where they can just leave their lives behind at the drop of a hat, but if you are in the position to do so then you should make the most of it. Once you are on the ground working in a country you will meet people, network, and build up a reputation. Then it’s easier to work your way up the ladder.

Twitter: @TristanTCoach

1 thought on “Q+A – Tristan Thomas”

  1. Matthew Travell

    A very well written and insightful article for both professional career coaches and non league coaching development

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