Back at Bede's: Dan Harding and Olly Davies

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Football has played a significant part in school life for many passionate Bedians over the years, whether playing for fun or in the hope of becoming a professional athlete. For alumni Dan Harding and Olly Davies, their love for the sport flourished into successful careers, and we are lucky to have them both back at Bede’s and inspiring our current pupils by coaching.

The story so far

Dan (Deis, 1990-1999) spent the majority of his school life at Bede’s, joining the Prep School in Year 2 and staying until the end of his GCSE’s. He left the Senior School at 16 years old to join the Brighton & Hove Albion Youth Scheme, and has since enjoyed a thriving career in professional football, playing for England Under 21s, Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Eastleigh and Whitehawk. Dan is based in the South East, and lives with his wife Vicki and children.

Olly (Knights, 2005-2009) joined us at the Senior School. He represented Bede’s and Sussex throughout his school football career, and was part of the ESFA (English School’s Football Association) winning team squad in 2009. At 19 years old, Olly embarked on a football coaching programme along the West Coast of America. He soon discovered a talent for youth coaching, and went on to set up his own Sussex-based company, Swerve Soccer Camps, which provides development programmes, clubs and residential camps for budding footballers at youth level.

Dan and Olly’s roles at Bede’s

Olly has taken the Under 15s under his wing and guided them through to the Sussex Schools County Cup and Elgin League playoffs. Dan works with our Director of Football, David Caryer, to coach the 1st team, trains the Under 16s, and mentors other coaches at the Prep and Senior Schools, advising them on session plans and sharing ideas.

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Dan (far right) with the U14a Bede's Team following their Sussex U14 Shield win in May 2018

Bede’s memories

Both Dan and Olly show genuine appreciation for their past Bede’s coaches, who provided them with opportunities to pursue football as a career, both in and out of training. “Mr Gough took me to Brighton when I was 14 years old,” Dan says. “I’d like to say a massive thank you to him.”

Olly adds: “I have to give major thanks to my BTEC Sport teacher, Mr Leggett, for everything. I learned all my coaching methods from him. He guided me from start to finish, and set me up for starting my own coaching company. We are still in touch on a weekly basis.”

Part of the team

Dan and Olly have fully settled into their roles at Bede’s, and both speak about the department with great affection. “It’s great being back at the School – everyone in the Sports Department is amazing to work with,” Dan says.

David Byrne, Director of Sport at Bede’s, is equally as enthusiastic about Dan and Olly’s contribution. “It’s fantastic to work with Dan and Olly,” he says. “As they went to school here, they have grown up with Bede’s holistic and inclusive approach and can pass this onto the pupils they teach. They have a wealth of experience in the sport, and are role models for the kids – both work in professional football, and many pupils aspire to have careers in this industry in the future. It’s nice that Dan and Olly want to give back.”

Football at Bede’s today

“Pupils play football across two terms, from September to April,” David Caryer explains. “All teams enjoy access to facilities including three high-quality pitches, a state-of-the-art gym, a Strength and Conditioning Programme led by our specialist coach, Tony Morriss, practice time on Eastbourne Borough’s 4G and Seaford’s 3G astro pitches, and video-analysis of every match on a HUDL app.” Teams participate in a strong nationwide fixtures schedule (including the HUDL League), and get the opportunity to take part in international tours every year.

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Real Madrid tour, August 2017

“The set up here is very good,” Olly enthuses. “The Bede’s Football Academy sets an exceptionally high level for youth coaching and technical training, and what’s on offer is nothing short of amazing for these kids.”

“The standard of pupils here is very high,” Dan adds. “We have really good players, all the way from the Prep to the Senior School.”

The impact of sport

“Sport has been everything,” Dan says. “I don’t know what I would be doing now if I wasn’t playing football. I owe everything to it – including being able to provide for my family.”

“Without sport, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Olly adds. “It’s a way of life, and I have shaped my career around it. It’s been fantastic.”

To see our sports facilities first hand, please call our Senior School Sports Complex on 01323 356570.


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