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Sheffield 160: Calum Oakenfold

12:38 PMGoalChatter

by Aleks V |

2017 marks the 160th anniversary of the world's first football club, Sheffield FC. Sheffield 160 is a bi-weekly series that goes behind the scenes of the historic club through interviews with players and staff.

This week, Aleks chats with Calum Oakenfold, who recently moved up from being Ladies Development Team Manager to working as the Ladies First Team Coach with Zoe Johnson.

All photos courtesy Sheffield FC.

How did you first get involved with Sheffield FC?
I am originally from Bristol and actually started coaching there with Michael Meaker and also Bristol Rovers Academy. From there, I spend four years in the US coaching in New York and New Jersey before returning to U.K. in 2014. I then moved to Sheffield to work with Sheffield Wednesday Academy and Sheffield FA. It was that move that got me in touch with Sheffield FC Ladies and I took over as Development Team Manager in March 2016. The team was positioned fairly well in the league and had five games left plus a Cup Final against Arsenal.

Did you play professionally prior to coaching? 
I played academy football for Bristol Rovers and then semi pro for teams in Bristol.

Can you recall your first game as a player and first game as a coach?
Can't recall first game as player, but coaching was for Bristol Rovers U10s. We played Swindon Town and won 5-3, but lads played very well. Obviously at U10 it's all about development of the player and they did really well with the challenges we set!

First game coaching for Sheffield FC Development was against Birmingham - we won 4-2. We actually went unbeaten for the rest of season and finished 2nd in the WSL Development league.

The Ladies Development team finished runners-up in their debut season in the FA WSL. What was your biggest challenge in getting that result? 
Well, the first challenge was getting the team together, motivated and focused on a challenge for the end of the season. The players were great though, and already had a bond, so it was just taking that and focusing on the last six games. We also had a big final against Arsenal in the Cup, so that was a big motivation, too.

Can you describe your coaching philosophy? Are there any current or past managers you look up to?
My coaching philosophy changes depending on who I'm working with. With the Ladies First Team, it is in line with the club's philosophy of looking to play attractive attacking football which allows players to play with freedom and creativity!

Zoe Johnson is a great manager and I will always do what's best for her. John Williams is another person I look up to who offers great support and advice.

What is the fan base of the Development Team like? Are there fans who come to every game (home and away)?
Sheffield FC as a club has a great fan base in itself. There are fans that will come to home games that watch whichever of the Sheffield FC teams is playing, Men's or Women's, Development, or U18s. The development team had a good following at home games and had fans closer to the team and the players that come to away games. The other great thing about the Ladies side is that we had First Team players and staff also come to watch our games when they were available, and there was always support and interest in our performances and results.

As a coach, what is your opinion on the use of technology, such as goal-line and VAR?
I think goal line technology has been a great addition to the professional game and gives officials instant decisions on actions that may be contested. The fact the it is instant also means no disruption to the game.

VAR is still not ready, in my opinion, and needs more streamlining and definitive processes put in place before running it out in the professional game. There needs to be more clarity on how and when it's used and for what actions.

What do you think is the most important thing you've learned from coaching thus far?
Well, that's a hard question! There are so many different aspects, but I guess for me, it would be finding a coaching style and philosophy that I really believe in and feel is the best for my character. That way, I can be true in what I say and do when coaching and not feel forced to coach in a manner that I wouldn't be comfortable with. Ultimately, I think players will respond better when you coach with that true honesty and belief in what you are saying and will relate more to you.

Calum Oakenfold is a First Team Coach for the Sheffield FC Ladies.
Read more on Sheffield 160 here.
Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #Sheffield160.

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