After former Yale men’s soccer head coach Brian Tompkins stepped down from his position as coach in the fall of 2014, he assumed a new administrative position created by Yale athletics. The position’s title, senior associate athletic director of student services, tasked Tompkins with a relatively broad goal: improving student-athletes’ well-being, and facilitating communication between athletes and the department’s administrators.
Fourteen months after his appointment, women’s tennis player and co-president of the Yale Student-Athlete College Council Caroline Lynch ’17 summed up Tompkins’ new presence in the department with just two letters. Many athletes seeing the former coach around campus call him not “Coach Tompkins” but “BT,” a nickname that demonstrates the closeness Tompkins has quickly built with student-athletes at Yale.
“I’m ‘that guy’ in athletics now, and I like that,” Tompkins said.
After serving as a Yale head coach for 19 years, Tompkins began his new role in January 2015. According to Tompkins, he and Director of Athletics Tom Beckett agreed that the former coach, who had many years of both coaching and teaching experience, had the potential to expand the department’s area of student services — one that includes academic, social and mental health matters for athletes. In the 14 months since his appointment, Tompkins has emerged as a figure of support to student-athletes in all teams while carving out the specifics of his new role.
In his position, Tompkins plays a variety of roles, which either did not previously exist or were formerly served by different people. Among other responsibilities, he is the athletic liaison to the Yale College Dean’s Office, dealing with matters of admissions and financial aid; the sports administrator for Yale’s track and field, cross country, sailing and squash teams; a member of the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct; and the head of three athletic leadership initiatives: the Kiphuth Leadership Academy, the Yale Captain’s Group and the YSACC.
Tompkins described his job as an empty pickup truck, which can get “lots of different things thrown into it at any time,” but highlighted that above all his overarching role is to support and care for the “holistic well-being” of all student-athletes on campus.
“I think he has well-established his role as the point of contact for students, and I know many students feel comfortable going to him about things they would like to see implemented within Yale athletics,” said Lynch. “I definitely think his experience as a head coach helps him to understand athletes and the demands of Yale.”
Women’s tennis player Elizabeth Zordani ’18 had a similarly positive impression of Tompkins. Zordani helped organize a discussion last week on the intersection of student-athletes and mental health, and she said Tompkins was “extremely supportive” of the event. He attended the event as one of six panelists, and, according to Zordani, has been a huge force for mental health and athletes.
For Tompkins, however, mental health is only one focus area: He also plans to work with athletes in improving access to career development services, bettering the integration into the athlete community for LGBTQ student-athletes and developing a partnership with Yale’s Emotional Intelligence Department.
Still, Tompkins said he will need more time to fully comprehend the resources available in the department to him before formalizing any projects.
“I’m in the kitchen with lots of ingredients and have a lot of recipes cooking, but I’m still figuring out all the ingredients,” Tompkins said.
Though his initiatives are all tailored toward the well-being of student-athletes specifically, Tompkins said he also wants to work on better integrating the athlete community with the overall Yale community. Because team’s often develop strong bonds with their teammates, Tompkins said, other students often perceive athletes as self-segregating.
Tompkins’ interest in the holistic education of student-athletes comes in part from his early years as an educator. Originally from London, Tompkins came to the United States in 1980 to work with inner-city children.
In his time before becoming a soccer coach, Tompkins also helped with various charitable organizations, worked with emotionally disturbed and delinquent children and taught individuals from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Former men’s soccer player Saul Downie ’18, who played a full season under Tompkins, said that during his time on the team, he was impressed by Tompkins’ significant interest in players’ lives off the field, adding that this quality aligns with his new position.
Tompkins himself noted that his experiences with both teaching and coaching are “a great asset” for his role in student services.
“I am a teacher and educator first, so this position is really well suited to how I view people and relationships,” Tompkins said. “This was a natural evolution from coaching to something I can really bring some value to.”
During his 19 years as Yale men’s soccer head coach, Tompkins amassed a 138–137–39 record.