Teesta Sisodia-Sullivan, March 9, 2018Embed from Getty Images
Stefan Oakes is a retired English professional footballer who played for several clubs including Premier League Leicester City, Notts County and the Wycombe Wanderers. His professional career spanned from 1998 to 2013. He was a member of the Leicester City team that won the League Cup in 1999-2000.
One of Stef's many highlights is his goal from midfield in the Notts County 3-1 win over Teovil Town at Huish Park in March of 2005. This won him the Mitre Goal of the Year for 2005.
Stefan Oakes is currently the Director of the Elite Technique Program at the North Carolina FC Youth in the US.
What skills did you possess that set you apart as a player?
Creativity, Technical skills and Passing ability, both for long and short shots.
I had speed of thought. I wasn't the fastest on the pitch, but I knew where the other players were and could anticipate where the other players were going to move. I could think ahead and know where I needed to move the ball to put it in the best position for my team.
Did you play positions other than midfield?
Mainly midfield, sometimes left back.
What qualities do you think midfielders need to possess?
A midfielder needs to be able to go box to box (be fit enough to run from one end to the other, and then back without tiring and then do it again). They need great passing skills, for both short and long passes.
A midfielder needs to be a strong player and have good vision (ability to see other players on the field and to anticipate their movements).Embed from Getty Images
What do you believe is more valuable? Being a team player or trying to be the star player?
You have to be good at decision making. There are times when you need to be selfish and take the ball. It doesn't mean you're trying to be the star, but that you know you can make a move. You also need to know when to pass the ball. You can't just dribble dribble dribble all the time and never pass.
A star player makes the people around him better.
How were you found?
I was on the local team in Birstall United at nine (9) years old. I joined the Youth Team Scheme (YTS) at 16.
What is the YTS?
The YTS is the Youth Team Scheme. It was for 16 - 18 yr olds. We were training to go up to either the Reserve team or the First Team. If you were good, you'd move up to the Reserve team and continue to train or play there. If your were really good, you might get signed directly to the First team.
What was your day like when you were on the YTS?
We had to be at the facility by 8. We had to clean the areas, even the bathrooms for the first team. We worked and trained at the facility. Training was five days a week from Monday through Friday and then we had our games on Saturdays. We were paid as YTS players - not a lot, but we were paid every week.Embed from Getty Images
Did you have any set backs on your way to playing professionally?
When I was eighteen I broke my leg in ten places during a game. It took a few months to recover and push through.
Did you think that was the end of your soccer career?
I was at the hospital and the manager called me. He knew I was a hard worker and that I loved the game. They signed me and waited for me while I recovered.
What advice would you give the serious player who is dedicated to his craft to best position himself so he can be seen and possibly placed with a professional club?
Practice / Practice / Practice
What, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have stayed fitter and worked harder. I got complacent, not lazy but over confident that I didn't need to work harder.
Stefan Oakes now lives in the US. Aside from his duties running the Elite Technique program, he offers private coaching lessons. He is a brilliant coach and amazingly humble. Two of my children have trained with him and I speak from personal knowledge when I say the kids love working with him.
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