Salty Thompson’s vision for American rugby has transformed the growth and the future of the sport. His dedication to the education and development of young players has created a pipeline that will sustain the success of the USA Eagles for years to come.
A native of Northern Ireland, Salty began his rugby career at Regent House School and was an Ulster u19 and u23 player. Salty attended Loughborough University, England, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Sports Science and was a dual-sport athlete, competing in track and rugby.
He served as freshman rugby captain in 1976, second-team captain in 1978, and was selected to the 7s first team in 1979, competing in the Middlesex 7s. Salty finished his collegiate career winning the Monterey International Tournament with a talented Loughborough University squad.
Salty taught and coached at Ratcliffe College, England, and played for Nottingham before attending Arizona State University, and earning a Masters in Secondary Education. Following ASU he resumed teaching at Ratcliffe and played for Nottingham and Stoneygate Rugby Clubs. He also ran 400m for Northern Ireland between 1983 and 1986, competing in the UK and European meets.
Salty returned to Arizona in 1986 and made it his home, teaching in the Tolleson Union HS District and playing for the Tempe Rugby Club. He represented the Pacific Coast Grizzlies in the ITTs and the U.S. Cougars in both 15s and 7s. He also played for Atlantis before starting a coaching career that spans over 30 years at club, all-star, and national team levels.
Salty’s coaching career started and continues with Tempe Rugby. He coached Atlantis 7s and the Southern California Griffins in 15s and 7s before taking on the role as USA u19 Boys Head Coach in 2002. He coached USA Age Grade teams, u19s, u20s, and High School All American levels until 2018. That timeline included seven u19 IRB World Championships, the inaugural 2008 World u20 Championships, and the 1st World Trophy in 2009. In 2010 he became the Head Coach for the High School All Americans until 2018.
During his era with USA Rugby, Salty and his staff helped nurture over 40 Eagles, 35 Eagle 7s, and even more Collegiate All Americans. The current MLR rosters contain over 35 American players that came through the USA Age Grades during Thompson’s tenure. As a career educator he also served USA Rugby and the IRB, now World Rugby, as a Coach Educator.
Salty retired from a 25-year teaching career to become the Director of Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) in 2013. Since EIRA’s creation, the program has produced significant numbers of High School All-Americans, u20s, Collegiate All Americans, MLR, and Eagles (both 7s and 15s). Through EIRA, Salty has led the charge in closing the gap in the global game of rugby and influenced thousands of young ruggers nationwide.
“He not only is a great coach and mentor through his actions and integrity, but he sets the standard for these players and coaches to live by. He has given me an opportunity to learn more about being a successful coach. He has given numerous coaches this same opportunity. He is honest and open to anyone who is willing to learn,” said Tim Kluempers.
Salty credits the love and devotion from his wife, Beth, and family for allowing him to follow his passion for the game. He also acknowledges the coaches, managers, trainers, and others that have and continue to grow the game.