Student coach exchange makes strides

UEFA's Pro licence student exchange programme is getting excellent feedback from Europe's national FAs who find it a crucial element in preparing budding coaches for professional careers.

Participants at the latest student coach exchange course in Nyon
Participants at the latest student coach exchange course in Nyon ©Getty Images

UEFA's commitment to helping young coaches start on the road to a professional career is making an impressive reputation.

The European body's member national associations are delighted with the success and objectives of the UEFA Pro licence student exchange courses as an invaluable source of knowledge and information for the budding professional coaches of the future.

The latest seminar in the programme brought student coaches from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Israel and Norway, together with UEFA's expert tutors, to the House of European Football in Nyon. Over four days this week, the students were given an outstanding overview of the personal and professional qualities they will need not only to have successful careers, but also to survive in a competitive, result-oriented environment.

UEFA's vastly experienced tutors and instructors – Jacques Crevoisier (France), Nico Romeijn (Netherlands), Peter Rudbaek (Denmark) and Howard Wilkinson (England) – provided an insightful wealth of recommendations on the 'do's and don'ts' for a coach making his way in the professional football world. Former Celtic FC and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner was also on hand to highlight UEFA's specific coach education activities in the goalkeeping sector.

The experienced German coach Thomas Schaaf – who enjoyed a long and distinguished stint with SV Werder Bremen – also came to Nyon to share his experiences with the coaches in a face-to-face interview, while former Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson's thoughts – forthcoming at the recent UEFA coach education workshop in Budapest – presented delegates with plenty of food for thought.

In a film clip from the Budapest event, Sir Alex welcomed such courses as the one being staged by UEFA as an excellent means of preparing coaches. He supported the idea of long-term training for coaches – learning, he said, afforded a young coach a better chance of being successful. "It's a results industry," he reflected. "The coaching preparation that classes can give you is really important. You're then given proper preparation to go into an industry which is very difficult."

Schaaf said that a coach had to be ready to show curiosity and find out what the job had to offer in all its facets. A coach needed such education courses to acquire the appropriate knowledge. The modern-day coach, he said, was not just someone who led training exercises – the coach is now a 'jack of all trades' who must show competence in all areas, and who has to decide how much priority to give to each area as part of an overall plan.

Romeijn did a presentation on how coaches should practise self-evaluation. "Planning how you develop yourself should be a part of the overall process," he advised. "Be prepared, you will meet a lot of situations. Along the way you have to use your experiences, which give you the competences to solve situations. You should have great communication skills, you should have leadership skills ... The world is changing, so you have to change. Sometimes you have to open your 'backpack', take some experiences out, modify them, or put some new ones in. The most important thing is to open your backpack of experiences, because otherwise you won't learn."

Crevoisier examined the profile of a top coach, and also identified communication skills as an essential tool. "You want to be a top coach," he told the students, "but if you are not good in communication, then you will have a problem. You have to talk on TV every week, you have to talk in front of your players every day, you have to talk to the [management] board, to the chairman, the press, the fans, you must be convincing, you must be able to argue [your case]."

Closing a course which included the full range of practical discussions, training sessions and teaching practice, UEFA's chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu and head of football education services Frank Ludolph underlined the added-value benefits of UEFA's innovative student exchange courses. The courses enable students to gain a vision of the bigger coaching picture and learn from other nations, especially with regard to football philosophies; students increase their knowledge through expert presentations and messages from experienced coaching figures; they can gather information and make contacts for the future. The week's UEFA Champions League programme also meant an ideal opportunity to analyse various technical and tactical facets of the teams' play in two of the matches.