Ryley, James (soccer), 1928-1946

James Ryley, a native of Dundee, Scotland, served as Phillips Academy’s soccer coach from 1912 to 1946. Although the author of the scrapbook is unknown, it seems that Ryley’s son-in-law compiled it, as much of its content was published after his death. The scrapbook itself is in immaculate condition. The pages are bound together by an ornately decorated, dark blue cover, with the word “Photographs” imprinted in gold in its center. Furthermore, the author carefully pasted in each photo, diligently folded the longer articles to fit within the bounds of the page, and meticulously noted the date upon each photograph and newspaper clipping, indicative of the respect involved in documenting James Ryley’s legacy.

Team photographs, captain portraits, Phillipian sports articles, personal letters, and obituaries, all dating from 1935 to the late 1940s, fill the pages of the scrapbook. Most of its items detail Ryley’s long, successful reign as the Academy’s soccer coach. According to the numerous Phillipian sports articles, he won 125 games, lost 48, and tied 31 over the course of his career. He had 14 undefeated seasons, and, from 1934 until 1938, opposing teams scored only three goals against him. In addition, his legacy of excellence extended into the highly anticipated Andover/Exeter matches, of which he won 10, lost 5, and tied 6. In fact, his teams often played college freshman from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, M.I.T., and Tufts. They also faced teams from other preparatory academies like Exeter, Tabor, Middlesex, Worcester, Governor’s, Deerfield, Brooks, and Milton. Moreover, the articles highlight his dedication to the game. Ryley often inspected the roster in an effort to fine-tune the team’s performance, and he continued to coach the team despite declining health. Despite the admiration for his impeccable performance, soccer, as a sport, was overshadowed by football, and not prioritized by the administration. As a result, the team was denied varsity letters and assistant managers, and their field in the old campus was stripped from them.

The articles and obituaries praise Ryley not just for his coaching ability, but also for his role as a close mentor to many generations of students. Initially, he staffed the student grill in Peabody House, where he was known for his kindly disposition and comforting smile. Upon the grill’s closure, he became the janitor for Bancroft Hall. Simultaneously, he supervised the Commons Room, the students’ recreation area, and was responsible for its renovation and improvement. Many of the documents speak of his immense popularity on campus and how he won the hearts of almost every student he encountered. Considered an earnest, affable man, who wished for nothing but to make his pupils happy, students were so saddened by the news of his death that they raised money to help Mrs. Ryley defray her various expenses. In addition, the students created the Jim Ryley Soccer Trophy, which would be awarded to the winner of the Andover/Exeter game, in memory of his life. The letters seeking donations that circulated among those who knew Mr. Ryley are preserved within the scrapbook. In addition, photographs of each year’s team and captain litter the pages. Notably, George W. Bush was one such captain under the tutelage of Coach Ryley.

by Connor Devlin, class of 2019

Scrapbook Box 93