The San Jose Earthquakes were just two matches into the season when MLS announced it was suspending play because of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s when Earthquakes defender Tommy Thompson knew he had to find something to do with his time.
Thompson was suddenly stuck at home and worried about staying active. When he realized his fans were dealing with the same problem, the 24-year-old decided to use his social media presence to stay connected with his young followers off the field.
Thompson began building out his YouTube presence. He had created his channel in March 2019, which at the time had only 12 videos with an average of roughly 99 views per post.
Nearly four months later, the channel has now generated more than 225,000 views, 3,000 watch hours, 2,100 subscribers, and 1.5 million impressions.
“It’s been really rewarding to see the type of engagement that the channel got,” Thompson said. “It shows that it was something that kids needed to learn, and for me to be able to help them along in that process has been something that I’ll always remember and be grateful for.”
What started off as Thompson’s attempt to connect with kids locally has broadened to other parts of the country. Now exceeding more than 150 YouTube videos on the platform, he has also expanded onto Zoom, where he hosts trainings and webinars for clubs across the United States.
In the past two months alone, Thompson has held 60 different Zoom sessions with teams in nine different states. This has helped him be able to coach more than 2,000 kids over the platform and teach him that every activity does not have to be dependent on in-person communication.
“The YouTube channel does open up all kinds of opportunities,” he said. “I think we realize the power of technology and how possible it is to actually run high-level Zoom training through the internet, and that was something that I didn’t know was possible before.”
Although the coronavirus pandemic has kept him and the Earthquakes on the sidelines for months, Thompson says that digital training could be the future of soccer. Given the safety and relative ease in which kids access the videos, numerous brands have reached out to Thompson about expanding his presence.
Thompson has already begun to work with Earthquakes partner Sutter Health on the ‘Get Earthquakes Fit’ initiative via social media. There have also been conversations with different gyms and tech companies regarding his YouTube channel and potential partnerships, he said.
In the meantime, Thompson is back to his day-job: being a professional soccer player. MLS resumed play on July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, and Thompson and the Earthquakes arrived in the city on June 25. While he hasn’t posted any training videos on his channel since, he has recorded videos talking about his experiences in the bubble thus far.
Thompson is also working closely with Sam Benavidez, creative manager of content at the Earthquakes, on a profile video detailing Thompson’s daily life in Orlando.
“I think a more produced piece that’s going to be interesting is the Tommy Thompson day in the life one,” Benavidez said. “It’s coming out pretty soon and he keeps really busy even in his hotel room with these training classes with college kids and younger kids over video conferences. He gets a haircut from his teammate, he goes to training – he’s just an interesting guy.”
Now in his seventh year as a professional soccer play, Thompson said he has been limited in his off-the-field endeavors. While he has been involved in coaching, the scheduling, workload, and the physical strain of being an MLS player has hindered his ability to further expand his efforts.
Now with the duality of his YouTube presence and Zoom trainings, Thompson thinks that they will help him reach more students than he had ever thought possible.
“What’s next for me is to set an example by performing my best in Major League Soccer and show kids that it’s possible,” he said. “And then, at the same time, running all the Zoom trainings and all the webinars that I can to impact as many players as I can.”