Nicholas Stothard is a UP-Tuks alumni, holding two qualifications - BCom Recreation & Sports Management and BCom Honours Marketing Management. In 2013 and 2014, playing as a goalkeeper, he was part of the Tuks team that won the Varsity Football tournament.
Having been more passionate about behind the scenes of the game of football, Stothard now holds a Scottish C Licence, UEFA B License and currently pursuing UEFA A License through the Scottish Football Association.
Since 2016, he has been part of the TuksFootball coaching team. From 2015 to 2018, he was a Varsity Football assistant coach and from 2016, he became the TuksFootball Academy head coach for the U/17 and U/19.
Stothard has been recently appointed as a head coach of the Varsity team at TuksFootball.
Here, he tells us more about his recent appointment, the importance for athletes to balance life and sport, and words of encouragement to aspiring and upcoming football coaches.
1. Congratulations on your recent appointment as a head coach of the Varsity Football team. How do you feel about it?
Thank you very much. I feel honoured to be afforded the opportunity to lead one of the University of Pretoria's most successful Varsity sporting codes in the last 10 years or so. I do however know that with such an opportunity comes great responsibility, in order to withhold the institution’s great sporting culture and history. All in all, I am excited about the challenge that awaits me, my technical staff and the playing personnel.
2. Tell us, how does your day as a football coach look like? What do you get up to?
Every day is different. I obviously have the constant tasks that are generally executed most days which are delivering of the sessions to the players, but coaches are at the mercy of their planning and where their squad are in relation to that planning. Currently, we are about to embark on a pre-season in the middle of January, so my days are surrounded by recruitment of targeted players and compiling of periodization and session plans.
3. You have been part of the TuksFootball set up as a coach since 2015, what are your best highlights so far?
I think winning titles at a Varsity level as an assistant coach will always be a highlight. Coaching within the TuksFootball academy has helped me grow as a head coach. I was fortunate to travel the world with the clubs U18's. We notably won silver in 2018 at the Paris World Games (France) and we managed a top 8 finish out of 130 teams at the Gothia Cup (Sweden) in 2018 and 2019.
Locally, we put TuksFootball back on the Professional Academy map. Two of South Africa's premier youth tournaments saw us unluckily lose on penalties in the Engen Knockout Challenge final (2017) and finish third at the prestigious U/19 Bayhill Premier Cup (2019). Ultimately, the biggest highlight from the academy was seeing players that I have worked with, go onto earn themselves professional contracts. That is the biggest reward as a youth coach.
4. You hold UEFA A License through the Scottish Football Association yet pursuing a UEFA A License. Why is it important for coaches to obtain such credentials?
I think the courses equip coaches with the necessary tools to improve their personal development but more importantly to improve their players and teams. Courses do not make good coaches though. It is up to the coach to utilise the information and knowledge acquired and put it into practice. My level of qualifications are a benchmark and standard that I need to strive towards in anything coaching-related that I do, day-to-day for us as a team to succeed.
I started my coach education through the Scottish FA in 2015 where I completed my Scottish C Licence which allowed me to pursue my UEFA qualifications. I received my UEFA B Licence in May 2018. I started my UEFA A Licence in June 2019 and was set to complete it in June 2020, but I have not been able to complete my final assessment due to COVID-19 and restrictions surrounding travel standing in my way. I am hoping to complete my assessment in early 2021.
5. In 2013, you were part of the UP-Tuks team as a player that won the inaugural Varsity Football tournament. What is special about this tournament and what are the key lessons you can take out?
The fact that student-athletes can display their talents on such a platform, for me makes it incredibly special. Varsity Sports are giving players a taste of what it really is like to be a professional with a variety of elements at their disposal. The crowds, the media, the travel and accommodation and the fact the tournament is broadcasted for the entire country to watch are just a few reasons as to why players have a great opportunity in front of them.
I think because I was a part of the first-ever team to win the competition, the most valuable lesson that I learnt was that as a collective, anything is possible. Individually we were not the best team at all, but with every squad member's contribution from our first training session to the moment we lifted the trophy that evening, we were unstoppable.
6. You obtained two qualifications at Tuks, BCom Recreation & Sports Management and BCom Honours Marketing Management. Why do you think it is important for athletes to balance life and sport?
I think for anyone who wants to pursue a career in sport, I would always advise on equipping themselves academically. Sporting careers are short and life after sport is a reality that needs to be considered. Some student-athletes will reach the highest level within their sporting code as a student-athlete, therefore graduating needs to be at the forefront of their focus. I never failed one subject as a student, and I never missed a training session. That is a fact - you can look it up and ask the coaches at the time. There is no excuse to not balance both. It comes down to planning. Plan your life and you will be successful as a student, as an athlete and in your family and social life.
7. TuksFootball Academy forms part of TuksSport High School, tell us more about the goals and objectives that have been set for the Academy and its way forward in the coming years? Also, who are the players to watch out for?
The opportunity that the kids have in high school and the academy is incredible. We obviously focus on different objectives at different ages. My age group (U/18 and U/19) that I have been with for the last few years had to learn how to compete and win at a senior level. Most of the boys will graduate into a senior team and we as an academy want to ensure that the players are ready to play against men when they leave school.
The Varsity team require players who can handle the pressure of being able to compete and in turn, that is the same for the team that the Varsity team serves, AmaTuks - our club’s professional team. Ultimately the academy must prepare players to be able to compete at a higher level, whether that is for the Varsity team or Amatuks, or maybe even both.
There are about 6 or 7 graduates that will step into my team in 2021. It will be an easy transition because I have actually coached them for the last 2 years. There are not specific standouts - they all standout!
8. What are your words of encouragement to aspiring and upcoming football coaches looking at what you have achieved so far?
Planning is everything. Set yourself realistic goals and objectives. Make sure you are not facilitating training sessions, but you are actually coaching the players to the planned theme or objective. And lastly, understand your players on a human level - to earn the respect you must give respect.