Before becoming a professional player with the San Jose Earthquakes, Tommy Thompson remembers growing up and doing what every aspiring player does: looking to the greats for inspiration.
“I was inspired a lot by players like Messi or Ronaldinho and the videos that were put out on YouTube with the skills that they were doing,” Thompson said. “ I remember as a kid, whenever I would see those videos, I’d want to learn how to replicate it.”
With the coronavirus pandemic putting a pause on the MLS just two games into the 2020 season, Thompson is using his growing social media presence to stay connected with the future generation of soccer stars.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and the kids in this area,” Thompson said. “It’s something that hasn’t been done before, and that excites me. I’m excited to continue to work on it, and now’s the perfect time to inspire kids who need the inspiration, and I’m going to do everything I can to keep that going.”
“I thought now it’d be a good opportunity for me to give back,” he said.
Without MLS matches and practices on his schedule, Thompson’s new routine is going on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter to showcase moves and tricks that his viewers can work on – wherever they might be.
The idea behind the lessons came from Thompson’s dad, who runs a soccer club in Sacramento. After both realized the need for kids to have ideas of what they can do despite the current playing and practicing limitations, Thompson took to social media to keep them active.
It all began when Thompson launched his very own #StayAtHomeChallenge on March 15. Since then, the video has generated more than 200,000 views across his social media platforms, the vast majority coming from Twitter, he said. It even inspired MLS to post about the challenge on Twitter the following day.
Once he saw that the demand was there for people to watch his content, Thompson wanted to maintain that momentum.
“I took it upon myself to make a makeshift cameraman out of some storage boxes, and I put my iPhone camera up there, and then I started doing skills that I used to do as a kid,” Thompson said. “I want to give kids ideas on what they can still do at home.”
While Thompson’s initial success came mostly from Twitter, he has noticed an even more significant potential on YouTube. While other YouTubers post videos of skills tutorials, none of them also play professionally, he said.
After creating his YouTube Channel in March 2019, Thompson had only posted 12 videos nearly a year later, generating an average of roughly 99 views per post.
But since reposting the original #StayAtHomeChallenge video on YouTube on March 16, he has created an additional 91 skills videos. More than 100 people have created their own skills tutorials and posted them on social media using the #StayAtHomeChallenge hashtag.
Overall, Thompson’s content output on YouTube since March 2019 has increased by about 667%, and his average views per post have risen 107% during that same period.
Already, brands have connected with Thompson to help release positive content during this difficult time. Sutter Health, a Northern California-based health system and partner with the Earthquakes, worked with him to bring the pair’s “Get Earthquakes Fit” initiative online via social media. Thompson also landed TV interviews with NBC News Bay Area and KTVU2, an Oakland-based Fox affiliate.
While Thompson acknowledges that his reach isn’t that of an NBA player, it has not stopped him from trying to reach the thousands on social media who are connecting with him through these videos.
“I’m just trying to give my fans and my followers what they want,” Thompson said. “And right now, during this challenging time, it’s clear that the tutorials are what needs to be my primary focus.”