Thompson making it fun for the Robins' next generation
WORKING hard behind the scenes, Youth Academy coach Antoine Thompson is somewhat unknown to those who follow Cheltenham Town but his impact on the club's development is substantial.
Released by Blue Square Bet Premier club Woking when he was 18 after a promising youth football career, Thompson went on to study Sports Coaching and Conditioning at Hartpury College, before gaining a Masters degree at the University of Gloucestershire in Sports Development.
Now employed as the youth development phase lead coach with the youth set up, Thompson works hard to create an enjoyable environment for the young Robins aged 12 to 16 to thrive in.
"Football has always been about the kids for me," Thompson said.
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"I wanted to give something back after my own experiences. I have had good and bad coaches and I know the effects both can have on young players.
"I want these kids to enjoy the academy, to have a good time playing football and to improve."
Thompson is now responsible for the documentation of the new Elite Player Performance Plan and overseeing the development centre as well as coaching the youth and academy teams, below Russell Milton's scholarship group.
The 26-year-old has always known he wanted to work in youth development.
He said: "The manager here approached me when I was in my third year of university to ask what I wanted to do with my life and I told him I wanted to do what he did," he said.
"That was the first time anyone had said that to him, and so he got me involved part-time in the club.
"I was then offered a full-time contract as the skills coach and a year later became the youth development coach."
And Thompson isn't looking to move away anytime soon. After several years working with Cheltenham, job satisfaction remains very high.
"I am very happy at Cheltenham," he said. "I am ambitious to further my career but right now, I am happy and money isn't everything. Who knows what will happen in the next few years.
"There is a lot of talent in the academy, and I hope these players progress to bigger and better things in football."
Thompson has varied experience playing youth football. At the age of 13, he played at a European Football Academy, taking on teams in Spain and Italy and played for the Chelsea Youth Academy, where he played international tournaments.
When playing for Woking Reserves, Thompson faced some full-time professional players in matches against the likes of Luton, Millwall and Reading and was managed by Graham Baker, a former Manchester City midfielder.
"I learnt a lot about football playing against professional players and it was a great experience," he said.