- Tell us a little bit about yourself, background, where you grew up etc?
I grew up on the outskirts of Sydney in a place called Towler’s Bay (Pittwater). It was, and still is, an amazing place for kids to grow up – a lot of space & freedom.
- What are your first recollections of playing football?
My first recollections of playing football are playing with my friends at my local club at the time, Pittwater RSL FC. We had a lot of fun.
- What level of football did you manage to play at and when did you finish?
I represented Australia in the 1991 Joeys team which competed at the U17 World Cup in Italy. I played club football in the old NSL with Melita Eagles, Canberra Cosmos & Newcastle Breakers. I finished playing in my early 20’s due to advanced hip osteoarthritis.
- When and why did you first get into coaching?
When I was in the first year of a Human Movement Studies degree, I had to complete a work placement in the field. I assisted with coaching an U13 boys team with my first club, Pittwater RSL FC.
- What has been your greatest personal and coaching achievement in football?
Surviving to this point…..
- As the head coach of the Talented football program at Fairfield High School, tell us a little about what a coaching week in the life of Tom Haythornthwaite entails?
The kids in our program come from a wide range of previous football experiences & their skill levels also range from novice to advanced. Many of the kids show talent in human movement but have never really played football before, often because they are from migrant & refugee backgrounds and their life journey has not been linear in the way mine was (for example, you start school at 6 years old, you play football for your local association club et cetera). Some of the kids have learnt their football skills quite literally in the back streets of Baghdad & Kabul.
Our football program is called Football 4 Development. It operates on three mornings each week. We have one girls squad consisting of years 7-10 girls & two boys squads, years 7-9 & years 10 & 11. Each squad trains one morning per week starting at 8:00 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. The kids then change into school uniform and attend classes for the rest of the school day. We are very fortunate to have access to excellent playing spaces & facilities at Fairfield High. We train on synthetic grass within the Ultimate Soccer complex which operates within our school grounds.
- Did you or do you have any coaching role models you look up to or base your coaching philosophy on?
My first role model as a player was Pele. I watched a lot of videos of him when I was a kid. I think that has influenced my choices around what I do as a coach. The importance of technical skill is central to all of it.
As far as coaching role models go, I certainly admire Ange Postecoglou for his leadership & conviction for how he wants his teams to play, especially when all people doubt. A lesser person would wither under the same pressure.
- What coaching ambitions do you aspire to achieve in the future?
To keep doing it.
- You’ve coached many great players over the years can you tell us some of their names and what set them apart from the others?
I think what stands out in the players I have coached is the quality of persistence, especially during and after apparent defeat.
- Finally what message do you have for all the kids out there who want to chase their footballing dreams?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have the skills to be a professional footballer now?
- Do you think you could develop your skills, do the hard work & overcome the disappointments and setbacks on the way, to get there in the future?
- What if you do develop your skills, you do the hard work, you overcome the disappointments and setbacks to get there & you sign on for a professional football club as a professional football player when you’re 19 years old. Then, you break your leg in your first match and you can never play football again. Would all that hard work have been worth it? If your answer is yes, then go for it. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and you learn from all the shots you do take, especially when you miss!