Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman. Ryan Sutton is in his first year as head coach of the Peachtree Ridge boys soccer team.
Ryan Sutton, 28, is in his third year as a health/PE teacher and boys soccer coach at Peachtree Ridge, and is in his first year as head coach. Sutton is a 2000 graduate of Shiloh, where he played soccer under Peachtree Ridge athletic director Bill Holleman. Sutton played soccer in college at Young Harris and at Georgia Southern, where he earned a degree in psychology in 2005.
In this latest installment of “Getting to know ...,” staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Sutton about his first year as head coach, his engagement to Ashley Crosby and the Kentucky Derby.
BB: Your first year as head coach you got off to a pretty good start by beating three top-10 teams. Did that surprise you?
RS: It did. Defensively was our biggest question and we knew we had a good midfield coming back, we knew we had some firepower up top. But defensively, I was worried how we would be this year. I knew if we kept the ball forward we would be OK. Well, we haven’t allowed a goal yet. I’m not surprised that we won, I’m surprised we haven’t allowed a goal yet. Defense has actually been our strong point. We don’t score a lot of goals, but we don’t allow any goals either.
BB: How many more games do you have to win so you don’t have to share an office with wrestling coach Danny Sinnott?
RS: (laughs) Well, he’s actually taking over. I think I’m going to have to move out eventually. There’s three walls of wrestling stuff, one wall of soccer stuff. He’s been doing it a lot longer than I have, won a lot more than I have, so maybe after a few years I’ll win a lot more, get a few trophies to put in there. Maybe I can get my own office.
BB: You’ve been an assistant at Peachtree Ridge for two years. What’s different about being a head coach?
RS: I had a feeling you were going to ask me that. It feels better winning when you’re the head coach. I just enjoy the competition more than anything. I feel like being a head coach, I enjoy being able to work with the guys more and not be an assistant and really get everything planned out the way I hope it goes. I just enjoy being the head coach. There’s not a whole lot of differences to it except you have more responsibilities.
BB: What was it like coaching with your former high school coach Bill Holleman?
RS: Oh wow. Well, he doesn’t like it because I make him feel very old. (laughs) But I probably wouldn’t be coaching if it weren’t for him. There’s not a better mentor I could learn the game of soccer from. He’s been doing it for 30, 35 years, or however long and I mean being able to work with him. .... I basically shadowed him for the last two years. I listened to everything he did, I watched, I didn’t ask too many questions. He’s just a great mentor for the kids. There’s nobody better I could have learned from. I know I have huge shoes to fill.
BB: Is it easier to play for him or coach with him?
RS: I think it’s easier to coach with him than play for him. He’s a very demanding coach, but he’s different from other coaches I’ve been around. He demands more out of the person than the soccer player. He expects the players are good kids before they are good soccer players. That’s the biggest thing I learned from him when I played for him. He works the team so hard, but at the end of the day he’s concerned about you, how are you doing, how are your grades, how’s your family. He wants you to become a better person than soccer player.
BB: You’ll be coaching against your little brother Peyton, a junior at Mill Creek, later this month. What’s that going to be like?
RS: I want him to play well, but I don’t want them to win. I want him to play well, I don’t want him to get hurt, but I want to beat him. My parents, I think one will come in blue and the other maroon. It’s fun. That’s probably the most nervous game when I coach against him.
BB: You studied psychology at Georgia Southern. How does that help you as a coach and motivating players?
RS: Motivation wise, I think that’s one of my biggest strengths when it comes to me being a coach. Just being able to understand what a player is going through, what the situation is at home or in the classroom or wherever it is, I just think I’m able to connect pretty good with the guys. It’s definitely a help from the stuff I learned in college dealing with psychology.
BB: You got engaged recently. When is the big day?
RS: It’s in September.
BB: How did you pop the question?
RS: Very carefully and very secretively. It’s such a long story. It was the year to the day we met and I told her I had a surprise for her. I told her I needed her out of her apartment because I was going to cook a nice dinner. Basically, I had it planned for weeks and I set up her apartment as romantic as I could with candles, ribbons and other things. I had it all set up nicely, so I finally let her in and she came in the door and she saw it all set up and had to read all these different things. The last note said one year from the date we first met, will you marry me? As soon as she read the card she started screaming and then I came out with a suit on and hit the knee. The funniest thing about it is she thought I was coming over to make dinner. But what actually happened I bought Arby’s and it was sitting in the microwave. So after we got done calling our families, I opened the microwave and we had Arby’s sitting there.
BB: I was gonna ask you if you are a good cook.
RS: Um, yes, I make a very good spaghetti. No, I don’t cook a lot. But she’s a very good cook. I let her cook and I just eat it.
BB: You’re a Georgia fan. Did you make sure that didn’t conflict with a home game or a big game?
RS: We looked at it and to be honest I don’t remember who they are playing. I know it’s not a big game, but ultimately that’s the date she wanted the wedding and no matter who Georgia is playing it’s definitely more important.
BB: Spring break is around the corner. Any big plans?
RS: Zero plans. Usually it’s just a time to relax. We do play a game on that Friday and have a practice Thursday night. We give the guys four or five days to do their thing, relax and be with their families. I don’t have anything planned. I’ll probably relax and look forward to the summer a month later.
BB: You went to the Kentucky Derby last year. How much fun was that?
RS: I did. My fiance, most of her family live in Louisville. So we went up there and we got to go and it was fantastic. It’s kind of like, well I don’t know, I can’t compare it to anything. In terms of people, it’s kind of like a Georgia football Saturday game. Everyone dressed up and of course we had to buy these outrageous outfits to dress the part and it was fantastic. We had an absolute blast.