Heathwood Boys Varsity Head Soccer Coach Andrew Richardson capped off a stellar 2015-16 season by being honored as S.C. Private/Parochial School Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Richardson had already been named SCISA Co-Regional Coach of the Year, but being recognized by a national body of his peers was, he says, even more of an honor.
That Richardson would have caught the attention of the NSCAA comes as no surprise to anyone who followed Heathwood soccer last spring. Despite tough competition from perennial regional powerhouses Cardinal Newman and Hammond, Heathwood had a strong season and then blazed through the playoffs to finish as SCISA AAA State Runner-Up.
Expectations for this year’s team, Richardson says, are just as high: “I expect us to make the same kind of run we’ve had in the last two years.”
Here, Richardson, who is entering his sixth year with the Heathwood soccer program, talks about what the award means to him and to the program, why he loves his job, and what he appreciates most about coaching at Heathwood.
What was especially notable about last year’s soccer season for you?
I was really fortunate to be around the kids we had on the team, and I worked really hard to put together a great coaching staff. Our goals for ourselves were higher than outsiders’ expectations, but I always expected this team to be good. We had 14 juniors and seniors, and all of them had been on the Varsity team for at least four years, so they had seen every team and had played in big games, so nothing phased them. That’s half the battle in high school sports—just being able to handle the moment. People were impressed that we won some of the games that we did, but I knew these guys had it in them.
What do you think was the reason the team was able to exceed expectations?
I think our culture here at Heathwood is second to none. Our kids believe in what we’re preaching and take pride in representing themselves and our school and the way we do things. They’ve grown up in this program—they were JV kids who turned into Varsity players and they spent all that time wanting to get to where we did this year. They were very motivated to prove themselves.
Apart from getting all the way to the state championship game, what made you most proud of this team?
There are so many things these guys accomplished beyond what people had a chance to see. For example, in five years, the six seniors on the team won 48 games and beat every team we play in SCISA at least once. And we have a team GPA of 3.86.
What do you love about coaching?
I was fortunate to have really good coaches when I was growing up. They didn’t just teach me to play the game, they taught me to have a passion for the game. And they instilled certain values in me that I wanted to pass on. When I got hurt in college and had to end my playing career, I knew coaching would keep me in the game and give me a platform to share the values my coaches shared with me.
What do you appreciate about coaching at Heathwood?
Jeff Whalen is as good a boss as you could ever have as a coach, and I will be forever grateful to him for taking a chance on me. Beyond that, I really like the way our community is set up, that teachers care about our kids and our games, and parents are energetic and involved, and kids have ownership in the outcomes of our games and want to succeed.
What does it mean to you to win this kind of award, especially so early in your coaching career?
It was a goal I set for myself, something I wanted to achieve at some point in my career. But more than anything, I look at it as a testament to the hard work that everyone in our program has put in, and as a testament to our doing things the right way. I’m proud to be honored, but I’m even more proud of our kids and our whole coaching staff.