Coach students learn in Denmark

The second pilot course in the UEFA Pro licence student exchange project threw up some fascinating elements when students gathered in Denmark with Morten Olsen.

Participants at the pilot course in Denmark
Participants at the pilot course in Denmark ©DBU

There is an obvious question to ask the only man to have reached a century of caps as both player and national team coach: What is the key to such exceptional longevity at the highest level?

The response from Danish coaching guru Morten Olsen was that "basically it's about liking football, enthusiasm for the game, not repeating what you did yesterday. It's all about passion, readiness to innovate and a desire to find solutions for all sorts of problems."

This was one of many pieces of advice delivered by Olsen to a group of 49 would-be coaching colleagues from Nordic countries. They met in Aarhus during UEFA's second pilot event in the new Pro licence student exchange project, aimed at adding an international dimension to coaching courses normally run on a domestic basis by UEFA's member associations.

The first event took place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon at the beginning of May and much of the core content was taken, in fine-tuned form, to the second edition in Denmark. The students may have been holders of Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or Finnish passports, but a glance around the lecture hall or the training ground uncovered familiar faces of ex-players from many European leagues – or even coaches such as Denmark's Jens Bangsbo, who spent three years as a member of Marcello Lippi's back-room staff at Juventus.

The Aarhus gathering, with UEFA Jira Panel members Nico Romeijn, Howard Wilkinson and UEFA's technical director Andy Roxburgh in tutor mode, added up to five days of intensive activity. Much of it was on the training ground, where students from each association took teams onto the pitch to give examples of the way they work.

In the lecture hall the emphasis was on interactive group sessions – how, what and why were the key words. The aim was to provoke questions and encourage an inquisitive attitude in tune with a constant desire to improve.

As at the earlier Nyon event, these were blended with sessions on themes such as media training, leadership qualities or crisis management. Former England international Gareth Southgate also gave a refreshingly honest appraisal based on his experience of being fast-tracked at Middlesbrough FC from player to manager and suddenly, as he put it, "being in charge of a multi-million business".

Much is spoken and written about the demands on top coaches but, when asked to name the major job satisfactions, Olsen said it was "when you and the players enjoy what you are doing". He added: "And when you realise the things you have worked on actually produce results."

Olsen apart, there was a major difference from the first pilot visit to Nyon. In Denmark, the event was pegged to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals – which meant the Pro licence students were able to watch matches in the evening and, the following day, make match analysis presentations in front of colleagues.

"The education of coaches is vital for national associations who aim to develop their players and their teams," Andy Roxburgh commented. "UEFA's first step was to gather guidelines for our coaching convention and, up till now, UEFA has endorsed licences issued by national associations who fulfil the convention criteria.

"In these pilot events UEFA has become more involved in the content of the coaching courses and the feedback received so far indicates this is a very welcome add-on to the work done at domestic level."