"...I have definitely chosen to pursue this dream over accepting or chasing bigger paychecks outside of the sport, but I wouldn’t change it".
Name, age, where are you based?
Chris Hames, 27, South Yorkshire
Current and past Roles:
Currently first team manager at Bradford City Women, in the FA Womens National League. Previous roles include Development Team manager in the FAWSL; Assistant manager at Sheffield FC Women; Age group head coach at Manchester United RTC; Community coach at Macclesfield Town; Womens academy head coach, in Mexico City
Masters in Psychology; UEFA B License/FA Youth Award; Private qualification in Opposition Analysis; Talent Identification
How did you get into coaching and what has your path been like?
I first Volunteered for Macclesfield Town on their ‘Street Football’ program, which led to full time employment opportunity. The pathway since has had its ups and downs, but I have mostly been very fortunate to join teams on their upward curve, particularly, being involved in Women’s football now during its most important rise.
It has been very difficult at times, and I have definitely chosen to pursue this dream over accepting or chasing bigger paychecks outside of the sport, but I wouldn’t change it.
The last two seasons have given a real insight into the ‘real world of football’. I was involved with Sheffield FC Women as they were forced to withdraw from the new FA Women’s Championship. Since then, I stepped up to Assistant Manager, dealing with 'not on-the-field' challenges of senior football, whilst also having to rebuild a club, in a very unforgiving environment.
During a space of 18 months, I worked with three managers in that environment, filling in as ‘interim manager’ between each. I was unsuccessful in my application to take on the role fully, and feeling I was ready to take on my own challenge, felt that this needed to be done in a new environment.
What level of talent have you had the opportunity to work with?
Working with Sheffield FC Women in the FA WSL2 and Manchester United RTC has meant I have been fortunate enough to work with, and coach against, some exceptional players: a number of these have now gone on to represent England, Scotland and Wales at different age groups
What important experience did working as a community coach and Regional Talent Centre Coach give, in supporting your career progression?
Being a community coach teaches you the hard yards of coaching. Often I was running sessions seven days a week, starting at 7.30am and most days not getting in until 9/10pm after running development center sessions. It’s given me an appreciation that everyone's journey needs that bit of luck to kick start: without someone giving me that chance, I would not be where I am now.
RTC football was the bedrock of pushing myself to be a much better coach. I was working with top players and excellent coaches four times a week, and that pushed me to improve, and taught me a lot about the landscape of women's football and its excellent potential. It’s an excellent environment, and one that I would recommend any coach to enter on their journey
In your roles, what have you found best for your development and what skills have been transferable between your senior coaching and management roles?
As a coach, my best development came out in Mexico. I was having to coach footballers in their, or my, second language, which meant I needed to find other ways to coach other than just talking. It helped me develop my ‘style’, and now when I’m in full flow I go back to that way of delivery.
In terms of management, I am very much still developing. I think a lot of management is natural, and the way you feel best to handle it is the manner in which you have to try to do it. You then make the mistake, and reflect for next time
What were the main adaptions needed to be made during the transition from coaching at youth level, to managing at Senior 1st Team level?
There isn’t the patience from stakeholders to ‘discover’ a way of football, and it is unforgiving in making mistakes. It is less of a developing process, and you have to have the answers from the start. You have to demand the best to get the result – if you are winning it is a much easier job.
For me, I think that is why managers don’t necessarily fear being sacked across the game – it is the only opportunity you get to develop your ideas and learn from your mistakes, as the rest of the game is so fast paced between each match or training session
Photo Credit: Bradford City F.C
How’s it going at Bradford City Women and was becoming a Manager always an aim for you in earlier years of your career?
I wouldn’t say that management was always my aim. When I started, senior management felt a million miles away, so my aspirations were to just enjoy the journey, and see what I got to do along the way. As my coaching developed I wanted to throw myself into the most difficult situations I could, and I think management ticks that box. I am definitely opinionated!
At Bradford, I have joined a club which sat bottom of the league, after suffering a relegation the year before. Changes had to be made, and we are in the process of doing that, whilst also needing to fight against relegation, and aiming to get results. As it stands, it is hard to clarify where we are at, other than aiming to achieve.
What challenges have you needed to overcome in past roles and what lessons have helped you improve as a coach and manager?
I think coaching and management is all about problem solving. Whether that be fixing dynamics in the team, facing opposition who have more resources available, or dealing with setback of injury/unavailability of players. Each time you pick it apart and try to find a solution, which just adds to your arsenal to take into the next time a problem needs fixing
Any advice for coaches, who are looking to develop their career from community coaching to working within a professional club or 1st Team setup?
Take on as many opportunities as you can. For most of the last 7 years I have been coaching two/three teams a week, at all different levels. As soon as a door opens, don’t sit back and see if they let you in, jump in and offer what ever you can.
There will be setbacks, and the more it looks like you are ‘achieving’ the more the setbacks come and hurt, but you have to find a way to be resilient and go again.
How’s the future looking, what’s next?
We are taking it a week at a time as we fight against the drop. What happens there will of course decide the short term for me and what we are planning. Long term I feel I am doing everything I can to give myself the best chance to get to where I want to be in the game