A very early departure saw us meeting at school at 2am on Wednesday 30 March. Thankfully, everyone arrived on time, the coach was loaded and we began our long journey. After stopping off for breakfast, it was just a short drive to board the Eurostar and cross into France. Then, after a hefty drive through France, Belgium and Holland, we eventually arrived at our accommodation around 7pm.
Pulling into the grounds of the converted thirteenth-century castle that we would call home for the next few days, some people’s eyes were quickly drawn to the adjacent sports fields and away from the stunning architecture and grounds of the StayOkay Heemskerk.
Having checked in, there was just about time to unpack before our evening meal. A quick group meeting then took place to outline plans for the next day and it was off to bed.
With a busy schedule planned, we were up bright and early, though some students didn’t seem to be aware that there are actually two 6 o’clocks in a day! After breakfast we journeyed into Amsterdam city centre for some sightseeing and a chance to check out the shops. Back at the castle, we had some free time to enjoy the facilities and get in some last-minute practice before our first fixtures.
We arrived at FC Castricum and were met by their coaches, who showed us to our changing rooms. The Year 8 boys kicked off the first match and quickly took the lead through a Ben Cotgreave goal. A close game ensued, with the boys coming through to win the game 4-3. Ben Cotgreave helped himself to all four goals.
The Year 7 boys, playing on a full-size pitch, put in an excellent performance. With Billy Rainbow’s pace continually causing problems for the opposition defence and the work rate of James Connor in winning the ball back, Ridgeway were always in control. Billy eventually finished with a hat-trick. Further goals were added by Layteon Phillips and Rylie Ashworth, giving Ridgeway a 5-0 victory. In the Year 9/10 game, a brilliant performance from Josh Thelwell, who bagged four goals, helped the team to a 6-0 victory, with Callum Jones and Ethan Lane adding one each.
The girls’ basketball team, playing only their second fixture together, put in an outstanding performance, managing a 36-36 tie against opposition consisting of both boys and girls. Jordan Salisbury was the star of the game, scoring the majority of our baskets. Jayde Renner, Lottie Richards, Holly Woods, Layla O’Hanlon and Cheryn Byrne all did themselves and the school proud against tough opponents.
Another early start and we were on our way to the magnificent Amsterdam Arena for our tour, learning about Ajax football team and about Johan Cruyff, who is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all time and who has recently died. We were told about how the stadium is transformed from a football ground to the largest concert venue in Holland and back to a fully-functioning football ground in a few short weeks. After a tour of the changing rooms and the playing area, we headed into the club shop. Spending money was put to good use on kits and other merchandise. After the tour we took a short walk in the sun to an outdoor shopping mall for one last chance to buy any gifts and souvenirs.
After a quick change of clothes, we departed for our second fixture: VV DSO Ultrajectum for the boys and BC Devils for the girls. The Year 7 boys faced a big, physically imposing team, who used the large pitch to their advantage to hand us a 4-1 defeat. A very competitive Year 8 encounter saw our lads come away with another victory. The Year 9/10 team had a few early chances but failed to make the most of them and the game ended 0-0.
Another excellent performance by the girls’ basketball team ended in a narrow defeat, 33-28. An injury meant that the girls were left with only five players, which took its toll later in the game. Nevertheless, the effort and attitude on display was fantastic.
Our final day of activities arrived and it was the one we had all been looking forward to the most: Theme Park Day! There was a huge range of attractions – from the ‘white knuckle’ rides for the adrenaline seekers to the countless amusement stalls for the less adventurous. There really was something for everyone, keeping us fully entertained. Walking around, it quickly became apparent how adept our students are at winning prizes. Everywhere we looked, there was a Ridgeway student carrying a teddy of some sort! James Woolfall came away with more than he could carry; some were almost as tall as he is.
After an exhausting but exhilarating day, it was finally time to head back to the castle to pack and tidy rooms before bed, ready for our long journey home in the morning.