Josh Oakes makes history as 2023 CCAA men’s soccer Player of the Year

Still of Josh Oakes after he was named CCAA Soccer Player of the Year. (Submitted: Josh Oakes)

On Nov. 7,  St. Thomas University soccer player Josh Oakes was named the 2023 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) men’s soccer Player of the Year.

Oakes became the first-ever student athlete at STU to be named Player of the Year. In addition, Oakes was one of the 15 student-athletes to be named 2023 CCAA men’s soccer National Scholars, which recognizes both academic and athletic success. 

The Tommies men’s soccer team captain said that he felt a mixture of feelings, as he did not expect this recognition.

“I was very excited and thrilled, overwhelmed as well. It was just a crazy thought that I got it,” said Oakes.

So far, Oakes has achieved great success while playing for STU. In his first year, he won the Rookie of the Year award from the team. In his sophomore year, he received the Leadership Award. Since 2021, he has been an All-Conference First Team player. Moreover, he was also  this season’s ACAA Player of the Year.  

He said that the reason behind his passion for the sport is his mother, who watches all of his games and gives him feedback. 

“She put me in soccer, me and my brother. We both liked it, we played high school together and we won a championship finally.”

He has had special moments, like scoring at nationals in his first year. He said his grandfather has been his biggest support during tough times.

“My first year I was alone, obviously being from Ontario … not being with my family,” he said. “Having to call him, it was very comfortable.”

Oakes said that John-Ryan Morrison, Tommies men’s soccer head coach, was the one who recruited him, but it was the team culture and the city that made him choose STU. 

“I met all the guys and they made me fall in love with the program and I liked the city, I liked the team camaraderie, I liked how JR [Morrison] was very professional and always wanted to win.”

Oakes mentioned that he has become more reliable for his fellow teammates which has improved his leadership skills ever since becoming a Tommie. 

“I think I have to be more reliable on the pitch and then off the field, I have to allow everyone to be comfortable coming to me and asking questions about anything,” he said on being one of the team’s captains. 

“[It] feels good … it’s a lot of responsibilities, but to be a winning team and to have those responsibilities makes me feel really good.”

His team and the coaching staff have been crucial for his progress not only as an athlete, but as a person, too.

“I’d say without a doubt I wouldn’t be in the situation I am.” 

“To be a student-athlete, it’s been very difficult but [John-Ryan Morrison] made it very easy for me to transition and then the assistant coaches Dylan, Roy, Matt they’ve been great help,” said Oakes.

Morrison said that Oakes has been a top-rate player and person since he arrived.

“He’s taken on the leadership role of captain over the last couple of years and I’ve seen him grow into that role … we’re lucky to have Josh helping lead the guys,” he said. 

Morrison said he hopes this raises the profile of the program, as he felt disappointed with the peak national ranking of eighth STU had, even after “the incredible season.”

“It’s a great honour for him, of course, but it’s also great recognition for how far we’ve taken the program over the last couple of years.”

Chidubem Nkoloagu, co-captain of the Tommies, has been playing with Oakes since day one at STU and could not believe he won the award.

“At first, I was surprised. I didn’t think it was real, I saw he was one of the nominated players and then finding out that he won, it was a great feeling,” said Nkoloagu.

He said that Oakes deserves it and expects him to do the same thing next year, because “the team would not be the same without him.”

“I think it would be like missing a piece of the team’s heart,” he said.

“He just embodies everything we would want in a player.”