By Maxi Grindley
After the conclusion of their GCSEs last summer, most of the U16 football squad returned to Hampton during the holidays for further study. Only this time, they were completing their FA Level One Coaching Badges under the tutelage of one of the school’s football coaches – Mr Andy Ritchie.
Having acted as a tutor for the latest FA Level One, Two and Three courses since their inception five years ago, and for the previous versions for over 20 years – as well as having coached at Hampton for many years now too – Mr Ritchie is uniquely placed to comment on the school’s footballing community.
Mr Ritchie has been tutoring FA coaching courses for over 30 years, ever since he was “identified as someone who might have that potential at university.” Now he is able to coach the FA Level One, Two and Three coaching badges, as well as the Futsal Level One and Two coaching badges. Mr Ritchie’s experience means he knows the courses and potential problems very well.
Despite this, anyone who has been coached by Mr Ritchie will not be surprised when he admits that there is still “lots of planning that goes in,” and they will certainly appreciate his admission that he “like[s] to be organised because that is key.”
Around five years ago, there was a significant overhaul of the coaching courses when the FA introduced the England DNA, a new blueprint to ensure English football became more successful. This involved the creation of the St. George’s Park training complex, among other measures. “It’s changed drastically,” says Mr Ritchie about the blueprint, “you don’t just copy a session, you now create a session.”
In other words, the focus is now on adapting a template as opposed to simply copying it. Ideally this leads to “more innovative and creative coaches,” who can pass on more interesting ideas and ways to challenge the players in their care.
Mr Ritchie is adamant, though, that it is important we “don’t label old school as bad” since “the game of football hasn’t changed” – this should allow good coaches to adapt and tailor their own experiences to modern ideas.
The number of courses he has tutored over the years have left Mr Ritchie with the ability to guess which of the participants will go on to be the most successful coaches. In his experience the best coaches can be distinguished by “their delivery, their planning, their engagement [and] their confidence,” but, most importantly, “how somebody would engage with the process.”
This, according to Mr Ritchie, “depends on their passion and whether they want to develop themselves”. His own passion is still clear to see when he is coaching, and he acknowledges that he is still “picking up bits” when he is working with another coach in order to continue developing and improving himself. In fact, his tutoring of futsal courses is one of the many things that “helps [him] keep learning [due to] that richness of diversity, of culture”.
The course at Hampton was of a “far higher level than some other courses would have been”, largely due to the “high standards that the boys would already have set for themselves”. The facilities and support ensured the boys “had everything going for [them] as a group”. In Mr Ritchie’s eyes the benefits of the course go beyond the footballing world, as it helps to “improve understanding and respect for the process of teaching and learning [and] coaching”.
Mr Ritchie’s involvement with Hampton football, obviously, goes far beyond tutoring one course. Most notably, he helped the 1st XI win the ESFA Cup for the first time in the School’s history last season.
He modestly describes his role with the 1stXI as a “supporting role to Mr Mills, Mr Burke or whoever that might be”, but it is obvious his job is far from a purely supportive one. On the day of the final, Mr Ritchie was convinced Hampton “were good enough to win, [he] thoroughly 100% believed that”, since, in his eyes, the team had “shown throughout the season they had the character, the desire, the determination, the skill to win the game”.
The team certainly displayed all of these attributes as they fought back from 1-0 down to win in a nerve-wracking penalty-shootout.
It’s clear, then, that Mr Ritchie knows his football. Last season’s U16 squad were certainly fortunate to have been able to learn from him.