Growing up on the pitches of London, former Longwood men's soccer star Josh Hanratty knew the game of soccer was made for him. Before coming to America, he played the game against fully grown men while he was only in his late teens, rooting for North London's Tottenham Hotspur of the Premier League. Despite it being in a tier beneath the professional level, he said the dedication he saw others give shaped the way he plays and thinks about the game, both on the field and in his new role as assistant coach of Longwood men’s soccer.
“Three points meant a lot on the weekend, win or lose, it could ruin people’s weekends, the people cared that much. So, if you were to make a mistake in training or a game, someone would let you know that you’re not at the level that is required,” said Hanratty.
He transferred to Longwood in 2017 after two seasons at UNC Pembroke and served as a captain on the Lancers defense for both of his collegiate seasons. In his senior season, he took home All Big-South Second Team honors.
Hanratty said himself and head coach Jon Atkinson work great together as a tandem, and share the same ideals on the way the game should be played, making the transition “really smooth”.
While enjoying the process of creating the on-field product, Hanratty said one of the aspects of the role he enjoys is being able to make personal connections with the team.
“The other side of the job in terms of managing the players, and them coming into the office with, not problems, but different things going on in their lives, it’s another part of the job where I enjoy a great amount, more so than I thought I would,” he said.
Atkinson said the importance of having a second voice in the dressing room, whom the players can also believe in, is a key factor to having a successful team. With this in mind, he consulted players on their feelings of bringing back Hanratty for the position, which lead to an “unequivocal” assessment that he was the right person for the role.
“I think some of the strengths of having a young coach on board is the fact that he is relatable to the young players too, having just been a player himself for the previous year(s),” said Atkinson. “So, as long as Josh carries himself with the high excellence and demands and can distance himself from that now in a coaching capacity, which he has done, there’s no problems.”
Atkinson said he highlighted the possible coaching ability in Hanratty, but didn’t expect him to go the coaching route this early, as he feels the former Lancer still has the ability to play the game in him.
“I think coaching is in his blood. He loves the game and he feels so much at home with soccer, and then when he made his intentions clear, after all, I felt it was a great fit for Longwood to bring in one of your own and move him up into the ranks of being a coach and take it from there,” said Atkinson.
Hanratty said he has recently been working with the back four in defense and also with the midfielders to create a more cohesive unit and become more secure on the defensive end. In this process, he said the team holds high standards in all facets of the game and will not accept mediocrity, especially on the training ground. One of these standards, and one of the biggest things he takes pride in, as a former defender, is a clean sheet.
“Maybe me having a hard-nosed approach and being quite firm on them, it just raises their standards and it makes them have a sense of responsibility that we don’t concede goals,” he said.
The Lancers defense, so far this season, has conceded 12 less goals this season than a year ago at the same point in the season.
"We have plans set for the rest of the season, we are just hoping that the boys can, you know, deliver the goods and we can come out in the end of the year with some real success," said Hanratty.