Long before she was kicking a soccer ball for the University of Alabama, Emma Thomson spent time behind the scenes at concerts starting when she was just 2 or 3 years old.
Dougie Thomson, Emma’s father, played bass for the English rock band Supertramp, which had a string of international hits in the 1970s. He first played as a stand-in in 1972 and was named a full-time member in 1973 until the band took a break in 1988.
She drove golf carts with her father’s assistant, hung out on tour buses, ate a lot of free food, drank all the sodas she could imagine and tried to figure out who was a big-name musician and who was up-and-coming.
As she grew up, she worked on becoming the No. 30 player in her recruiting class.
Music is a big part of the Thomson family. Supertramp made the decision to move the United States permanently after finishing the album “Crisis? What Crisis?” in 1975.
“We all just kind of agreed that since touring in America was such an extensive proposition that it made more sense to be here for a while,” Dougie Thomson said.
When the band took a break in 1988, Dougie made the transition to band management. He managed New Sense, Disturbed and Dark New Day.
When the bands were on tour in the Midwest, Dougie brought the family along for some stints. Emma’s favorite memory came when she was 7 years old.
Disturbed was playing a concert in Wisconsin, so Emma and her two brothers went. While the show was going on, the Thomson children and their father’s assistant jumped into a golf cart and drove it around seeing the sights.
Unbeknownst to anyone in the golf cart, one of the guitars blew an amp, causing an uproar by the crowd. The police pulled the cart over and told everyone to be safe.
“The second they turned their backs, we just kept going,” Emma said. “We were so in that moment. It’s one of the memories that my brothers and I always go back to for sure.”
Even though he was a professional bass player, Emma’s father let his children choose their musical pursuit.
Both of his sons played the piano at one point, while Emma chose the violin when she was in the fourth grade and took up the clarinet a year later. The interest in playing music was short-lived, as she says she had her mother’s musical skills rather than her father’s.
After she dropped her instruments, the father-daughter duo shifted focus to her singing.
“He was very good about doing whatever we wanted to do, instead of pushing what he wanted us to do,” Emma said.
Just a Normal Day
Emma’s love of music started because she was around it almost every day. When she was backstage, she focused on being a second manager. She was constantly on stage and in the sound booth, checking the song list and listening to make sure everything was running smoothly.
Even though playing isn’t one of her skills, Emma still loves music. She constantly listens and is always on the search to add to her collection of 5,000 songs.
Whenever the Crimson Tide goes on a long road trip, she usually starts on the Spotify’s new releases playlist. If she likes the sound of a song, she researches the band’s roots and its other songs.
“I’m very into finding music that no one really knows about,” Emma said. “I think that’s something so special because there’s so much talent that is so undiscovered and unappreciated. I want to at least do as much as I can do to show those artists that will support them.”
Even though she grew up listening to metal bands, Emma has a broad taste in music, shown in her pregame playlist.
She starts her listening three hours before the game. It starts with the metal bands Disturbed and Dark New Day, which she plays for about 45 minutes to get into the right mind-set for the game.
Next comes the soundtrack to the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which she plays for 10 minutes.
“It kind of gives me the confidence that I know what I’m doing, because I know every word so I’m confident in what I’m saying and it kind of brings it out on the field,” she said.
The last five to 10 minutes are the Jonas Brothers, which puts a smile on her face and helps remind her that she still loves playing soccer.
Breakfast in America
Dougie grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, as an avid soccer fan. He keeps it on television all day, every day.
As he did with music, he made sure not to push his love for soccer on his children.
Emma started out playing baseball and basketball but loved baseball more. She played it until she was forced to make the switch to softball.
She quickly lost interest, so her father suggested soccer.
“I didn’t know anything else,” Emma said. “My brother played it, so I obviously looked up to him. It’s always been there.”
Her brother Kyle played soccer at Loyola-Chicago and is currently on Greenock Morton, a team that plays in the Scottish Championship League.
Give a Little Bit
For the most part, Dougie tries to be a voice behind the scenes, giving advice.
“I call him after every single game, and his input is really important to me,” she said. “Whatever he says goes. If he says I had a good game, if he says I had a bad game, it’s the truth. He’s very truthful and honest about my playing, and I think that kind of brought me to be where I am. If he said it wasn’t good enough then it wasn’t. It just kept me working.”
The only time Dougie was fully hands-on was when he coached his children’s in three-on-three teams, leading them to a couple of national championships.
Even though he was managing bands while she was growing up, Dougie was always helping Emma practice. The two would do passing drills together and he would take her to a field, so she could get shots on a goal.
“He was always there,” Emma said. “He did whatever he could to be there. He was always the brains of soccer.”
Long Way Home
The extra work paid off. Emma was a three-time All-American at the club level and was named to the U.S. Women’s National Team at the U-14, U-15 and U-17 levels.
This is Emma’s first year at Alabama; she transferred to UA after playing just six games at Penn State. She reopened her recruitment and Alabama stood out because of her connection to players within the program. When he was an assistant at Florida State, Alabama head coach Wes Hart recruited her. She’s known teammate Taylor Morgan since the two were in eighth grade. She played with Kaley Verpaele in the past and with Abbie Boswell last summer.
“It was a perfect fit,” Thomson said. “Very familiar. People from my high school go here. My best friend of all time goes here. My parents call me Emma-Bama from Alabama even when I was little. It was just a weird thing that happened to come about.”
After starting the season on the bench, Emma made her way into the starting lineup once SEC play had started. She averages 36.4 minutes a game and has one goal on the season.
Alabama will play its final home game of the season Thursday at 6 p.m. against Texas A&M.
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