The game was tied, and there was little time left on the clock. Soccer players covered in sweat and grass stains made their way down the field. Thibault Charmey, University of West Alabama sophomore and Gulf South Conference player of the year, had a chance to win it all for them as he stepped up to make the penalty kick. He took a deep breath and kicked as hard as he could towards the goal, but the kick was blocked.
Looks of disappointment and frustration covered the faces of all the players as reality set in. They had lost the regional championship, but the look of satisfaction and accomplishment of one man on the sidelines showed differently. This man was Matthew Thorne.
As the first head coach of the UWA men’s soccer team, Thorne has built the team from the bottom, and they have become very successful. With a regular season record of 12-6 in its first season at UWA, the team went to the semi-final tournament in 2012. He then led the team to compete in its first Gulf South Conference championship in 2013.
Born in Ireland, Thorne spent most of his life playing soccer. Beginning at five years old, he was on the soccer field every chance he could get. According to Thorne, soccer was what he loved.
“Soccer has been a huge part of my life. I just hope to help educate my players in every aspect in life, and soccer is a great tool to do that.”
Before pursuing soccer in the United States, Thorne was involved in many different soccer organizations including a local soccer club and a prestigious soccer club sponsored by a professional firm. According to Thorne, these clubs have produced many professional soccer players over the years.
With the desire to player soccer in the United States, Thorne became a part of Colaiste Ide, a college preparation soccer program. In this program, each student is prepared to take the Standard Achievement Test (SAT) while playing soccer every day.
In 2003, Thorne moved to the United States in order to attend Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., where he played four years for the Redhawks with UWA women’s soccer coach, Graeme Orr. While in Tennessee, his team achieved the Trans-South regular season and tournament championship.
Upon graduating college, Thorne continued his passion for soccer by playing in a professional development league in Palm Beach, Fla. He continued on to play with the semi-professional Icelandic second division team Hafnarfjordur in Iceland before going back to college for his master’s degree.
During his time as graduate student at Auburn University at Montgomery, Thorne became a graduate assistant coach for the soccer team. During his second year, he helped lead the team to the NAIA National Tournament Final 4, and the team won the regional title. According to Thorne, the two years he spent coaching at AUM is what sparked his passion to coach others.
“I knew that I wanted to be a coach after I became a graduate assistant,” Thorne said. “And I haven’t looked back.”
After graduating with his master’s degree in business administration, Thorne took the position of assistant coach at Huntingdon College. He coached there for two years and helped lead them to win the 2009 Great South Atlantic Conference Tournament before becoming head coach for the men’s team at UWA.
Since becoming coach at UWA, Thorne has started a men’s soccer team from nothing, recruited many players from all over the world and motivated his players to do the best they can according to Kent Partridge, UWA Sports Information Director.
“Not everyone who is a good soccer player is a good coach as well,” Partridge said. “Coach Thorne is different. He is an excellent teacher and motivator, and people gravitate to him.”
According to Coach Thorne, he hopes to continue to lead the UWA men’s soccer team to even greater success than the previous two years. He is very proud of the achievements the team has made after only its second year.
“It’s always easier to work with coaches when they are winning,” Partridge said. “And Coach Thorne will always be winning.”