Fountain of youth: Thompson, Gutjahr leaning on recent experience on IU men's soccer staff

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Jeremy Hogan | Herald-TimesIndiana’s Jeremiah Gutjahr (17) advances in the box against Notre Dame on Sept. 26, 2017. The Bloomington North graduate started the first 10 games of the season before a knee injury ended his 2017 campaign. Gutjahr is one of three Bloomington natives on the roster for the Hoosiers.
Jeremy Hogan | Herald-TimesIndiana’s Jeremiah Gutjahr (17) advances in the box against Notre Dame on Sept. 26, 2017. The Bloomington North graduate started the first 10 games of the season before a knee injury ended his 2017 campaign. Gutjahr is one of three Bloomington natives on the roster for the Hoosiers.

Tanner Thompson and Jeremiah Gutjahr took different roads to their new positions on the Indiana men's soccer staff.

The pair of recent standouts joined the Hoosiers in April — Thompson as an assistant coach, replacing Danny O'Rourke, and Gutjahr as director of operations, replacing Phalo Pietersen. Thompson joins another recent alum, Christian Lomeli, on the coaching staff.

With those three young faces in the fold, Todd Yeagley's staff is young. But he thinks that could be a positive thing.

"I didn't say, 'It has to be someone in their mid-to-late 20s, but it fit. And I think the guys really enjoy that youth," Yeagley said after IU's spring exhibition against Lipscomb. "I have to continually adapt and change some things. But within the framework, I'm comfortable. So the youth is exciting, and it's been good."

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Thompson stays in Big Ten

At some point while working at his job at C.H. Robinson in Chicago, Tanner Thompson got the itch to return to the soccer field.

He'd ended his playing career after one season with the USL's Indy Eleven. At IU, he was a three-time All-American with 18 total goals and 19 assists.

Thompson called Yeagley in 2020 to see if anything was open at IU, and there wasn't. So he took a volunteer coaching position at Ohio State under former Hoosier Brian Maisonneuve. His transition from a player's mindset to a coach's was tricky — and he's still adjusting in some ways. It took a while to get used to watching the game from the sideline instead of on the field.

He spent two years with the Buckeyes in his first coaching experience. It was beneficial for him.

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"(Maisonneuve) has one of the highest soccer IQs of anybody I've ever dealt with," Thompson said. "To be able to learn from him on a daily basis, watch him run some training sessions, watch him analyze the film — I thought the film sessions were really valuable for me. Being able to see his process was really helpful for me as I was getting going in my coaching."

Thompson was happy in Columbus, and wasn't particularly looking to move on. There was really only one school that would've enticed him to leave: his alma mater.

Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times IU's Tanner Thompson (10) celebrates scoring against St. Louis.
Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times IU's Tanner Thompson (10) celebrates scoring against St. Louis.

Yeagley called him in January about the opening, and Thompson was surprised. But the decision was easy for him, and he's now working alongside his college coach.

Thompson loosely knew a few of the current players, through his coaching experience in the Big Ten as well as simply being an IU men's soccer alum. But he's enjoyed starting to get to know the players on a deeper level since he arrived.

He thinks his perspective will be valuable for the current and future Hoosiers, as well as his fellow coaches.

"I think being able to provide some insight to the guys based off my recent experiences will be beneficial," Thompson said. "And then I think my insight in terms of tactically some different ideas that I can provide to (Yeagley) and (associate head coach Kevin Robson) and just help in some conversation in the office when we're discussing some stuff."

Gutjahr working around the edges

Jeremiah Gutjahr finished his season with Indy Eleven in October 2021.

He'd played in the Chicago Fire organization for two years before coming to Indianapolis. And after that season, he felt uncertain about his on-field future. With player and roster turnover, he didn't know if Indianapolis would be a viable option for him as a free agent.

Yeagley approached Gutjahr wondering if he was still planning to play the game at all. Yeagley told him the director of operations job was opening and that he'd be the first choice.

Gutjahr knew that eventually, he'd have to give up playing and move into something else, but he never knew what that moment would feel like. But once Yeagley offered him a job, it hit him: that could be his opportunity to start his next chapter.

Chris Howell | Herald-Times Indiana men's soccer player Jeremiah Gutjahr, left, and assistant coach Kevin Robson, fight for a ball during an Aug. 10 practice in Bloomington.
Chris Howell | Herald-Times Indiana men's soccer player Jeremiah Gutjahr, left, and assistant coach Kevin Robson, fight for a ball during an Aug. 10 practice in Bloomington.

As a Kelley School of Business graduate, he felt more equipped to contribute on that side of the game than in coaching.

"I think I've just spent so much time playing the game, hearing the Xs and Os, and going through practices and games, that I was kind of ready for something new in that sense. I was interested in staying in the game in that way," Gutjahr said. "And I think, as front offices grow, it's helpful to have people that have also played and have kind of a feel for what it's like as a player."

His decision to move on from playing was made easier by returning to a familiar environment. Gutjahr grew up in Bloomington, went to Bloomington North, and played at IU. This new job brought him back home.

Gutjahr's time at IU overlapped with a few current players. When he was a senior in 2018, several current redshirt seniors were freshmen. Gutjahr has enjoyed reconnecting with those former teammates and building relationships with the guys he didn't play with.

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His job entails a variety of duties, most of which are away from the field. Gutjahr has organized logistics for incoming freshmen and alumni visiting, and will be heavily involved in this season's 50th season celebrations. He's updating the program's alumni database and network for that occasion. When the season begins, he'll be in charge of the managers, and will coordinate details for practices and road trips.

Like Thompson, Gutjahr is still adjusting to his new perspective on the game. He likes the different things he gets to do because it keeps things interesting. And he's enjoyed observing Yeagley's leadership from a different role, and is looking forward to doing that even more.

"It's really cool to see how he communicates and how he runs his program. The little things and details matter. It's one thing to like conceptually think about that, but to be around it and see it like talked about and then actualized, that's one of the best ways to learn," Gutjahr  "It's cool to be on the other side of it and learn from someone who has been so successful and had a great career in a lot of different ways."

High hopes

As the season draws near, both of IU's new staff members are optimistic about the team's chances this year.

Gutjahr is staying even-tempered heading into the season — the same way he was as a player. He's not over the top in either direction when it comes to this Hoosier team. But he's looking forward to getting things going and seeing the group's potential.

"I think we've got a really good group of guys," Gutjahr said. "It's just (about) working every day and proving every day that we're top program. If we're able to do that, we'll find a lot of success."

Thompson, whose freshman year was the first season after IU's most recent national title in 2012, said it was tough to graduate without a title of his own. He's channeling that energy into his new role with the Hoosiers.

"I think the quest for nine is in full effect this year," Thompson said. "There's a lot of weapons, a lot of tools with with this group. So we're looking forward to putting it all together and and seeing how it looks in the fall."

Follow Herald-Times sports reporter Seth Tow on Twitter @SethTow, or email him at stow@heraldt.com.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Thompson, Gutjahr leaning on recent experience on IU men's soccer staff