Two years after it started, a nationwide scheme that aims to educate coaches of children aged under 12 continues to pay dividends at grassroots level across Finland.
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The Football Association of Finland (SPL-FBF) is continuing to show its commitment to grassroots football with a nationwide programme aimed at developing the standards of children's coaching.
An joint initiative by the SPL-FBF and Finnish energy company Fortum, the Fortum tutor programme has proved a big success since it started in 2009. The main objective of the scheme is to develop youth football by giving coaches the chance to improve their skills and knowledge by working with mentors; this in turn enables children to develop in an environment that encourages both an enjoyment of playing football and a respect for the rules of the game.
"There are thousands of inexperienced coaches who begin coaching the youngest age groups in club teams," said SPL-FBF director of grassroots football Timo Huttunen. "Those are the ones who need the biggest support in their young coaching careers. The Finnish FA has hired 72 part-time tutors to help these coaches in more than 100 football clubs all over the country."
The tutor programme is targeted at coaches involved with children under 12, with particular focus on those training youngsters aged between five and eight. Tutors include former professional players and coaches who have managed in Finland's top flight. Having themselves been educated by the SPL-FBF for the role, the tutors go to a team's training sessions and offer the coaches personal feedback on their performance, going back to each team three to five times over a period of two or three months. Each tutor visits around 12 teams each year.
SPL-FBF youth director Marko Viitanen told UEFA.com: "We have a lot of volunteer coaches in Finland who have been very grateful and happy that the FA and Fortum have arranged for these experienced coaches to help them. Our dream is that every child playing football will have a good coach."
Another part of the scheme sees tutors attend grassroots football tournaments where they advise coaches how they can fine-tune their skills in competitive matches. In larger-scale events, they are able to lend advice to as many as 200 coaches in two days. The SPL-FBF has been a member of the UEFA Grassroots Charter since 2007, and in 2009 was one of the first associations to earn the maximum six-star status for its work in grassroots football.