It sounds a little stereotypical, but it makes perfect sense. Hire the guy from England to coach your soccer team.
That’s exactly what Nebraska Wesleyan University did when they hired Tudor Flintham as the new head coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams.
Tudor was born an ocean away in southern England where, while not everyone plays the game, soccer is a huge part of life and English culture.
For Tudor, it all started at 5 years old when he moved into a new community and made a friend who loved to play soccer.
As kids, he and his friend Stu looked for any opportunity to play a game. Neighborhood pickup games, waking up early to get in a game before the bell, a few games at recess, and one or two games after school was a pretty normal day for Tudor and Stu.
As time went on, Tudor began to take soccer more seriously. He continued to move up to higher levels of play and others began to take notice.
He was well on his way to a professional career in soccer until a coach pulled him aside. The coach showed him that while he was an excellent player, his chance of playing soccer professionally were slim and encouraged him to take his skills to the American college system.
It was a big decision, but Tudor packed his bags and moved to rural St. Cloud, Minnesota to study at Saint John’s University – an all men’s university grounded in Catholic and Benedictine traditions.
Living in the Midwest and studying at a conservative Catholic school was a significant contrast to life in England. At Saint John’s, Tudor learned to value community and experienced authentic friendships for perhaps the first time in his life.
Tudor had a standout athletic career and captained the Saint John’s ‘Johnnies’ to a conference championship leading the conference in both goals and assists. He says that winning the conference championship with his friends at Saint John’s, is still the highlight of his career as a player.
After finishing his career as player and graduating from college, Tudor did what most college graduates do. He returned to England and found a job… selling real estate.
But it didn’t take long for him to realize that an office and desk life wasn’t his cup of tea. He wanted to find a way to get back to soccer.
So Tudor made a quick career pivot and took a job in America coaching with the FC Portland Academy.
In Oregon, Tudor found himself in a rich environment filled with seasoned coaches and talented players. He had a lot to learn, but it was the perfect place to try new things and begin to develop as a coach.
For several years, Tudor remained in Oregon where he won numerous coaching awards and helped build a highly successful high school program. But he couldn’t stop thinking about his experience with Division III athletics and how he might find a way to get back to that arena.
During a trip to Minnesota to visit family and tour potential graduate schools, Tudor stopped in to say hi to his old coach at Saint John’s. There he learned that after 37 years, his former coach was retiring.
Tudor was at the right place at the right time and his former coach pitched an idea. What if Tudor came back to help coach at Saint John’s?
It seemed like a perfect fit. Tudor could return to Division III soccer and be a part of building a program for a school that he loved. So in 2009, Tudor moved back to Minnesota to pursue a Master’s degree in Sports Management and help coach soccer at his alma mater.
Over the next 5 years, the program at Saint John’s received new life and new energy, and saw great success. The “Johnnies” went from a one-win season to conference runners up two years in a row.
Tudor was exactly where we wanted to be. He was part of a successful Division III soccer program and he really wasn’t looking to change anything.
That is until he learned about an opportunity with a school in Nebraska looking for a new men’s and women’s head soccer coach. In Nebraska, he would have the opportunity to build two programs from the ground up at a Division III school.
He couldn’t say no.
Since arriving in 2015, Tudor has helped bring both programs at Nebraska Wesleyan back to winning records and post-season tournament play.
While he’s proud of how he’s helped build the soccer programs at Wesleyan, Tudor said he loves being in a position to observe growth and see the evolution of the players and program. He finds value in focusing on the process and not just the outcomes, and believes that the character of a person matters more than their skills on the field.
He knows that most of his players at Nebraska Wesleyan will go on to have careers outside of soccer and Tudor welcomes that idea. They’ll become great doctors, lawyers, mothers and fathers who can still love and play soccer, even without going pro.
Tudor appreciates this because it’s the way his story played out.
He could have been bitter that going pro didn’t work out, but instead he chose to stay connected to what he loved the best way he knew how.
Tudor knows how to fiercely love the sport and invest in the community without being the soccer star that he dreamed about as a kid. He’s gained perspective and skills that he didn’t anticipate, and gets to live a story that rivals the one he dreamed of.