A winner of 76 Norway caps during a career in which he impressed at left-back for clubs including Liverpool FC and Rosenborg BK, Stig Inge Bjørnebye is now passing on his experience to the next generation in a new role as development manager for youth and children's football at the Football Association of Norway (NFF).
Bjørnebye, who was handed the task of leading the NFF's youth strategy at the start of 2012, told UEFA.com that patience is the key to developing young players. "As a player, I was always focusing on becoming a better player," he said. "I became impatient and became my worst enemy in the end. Then I understood the importance of being patient. There are no short cuts when it comes to developing as a player. Only hard work does the trick.
"Wherever football is debated, the underlying motive most of the time is to get better results, preferably as quickly as possible. In this climate, it is important to keep a cool head and focus on the work that goes on at the training pitch," added Bjørnebye.
The 42-year-old, who was assistant coach of the Norwegian national team for three years from 2003 to 2006 and then manager of IK Start, says the identification process of young talent in Norway is a crucial aspect that he needs to address.
"How young players are selected as talents is one area I want to confront. In my view, a talent is a player that in addition to showing qualities on the pitch, also shows patience, interest and makes the right choices. I see many clubs that choose their talents too early, before the young players are fully developed both physically and mentally. A lot of people can see that a ten or 12-year-old has talent on the pitch, but it is difficult to forecast if he or she has the mental qualities required."
Despite the NFF being one of the elite group of national associations with the maximum six stars in the UEFA Grassroots Charter, Bjørnebye also pinpoints retaining a high level of coaching among Norwegian youth team trainers as an area he wants to concentrate on.
"Norwegian football has to continue to educate its coaches," he said. "Last year there were over 13,000 coaches being taught in our system. Quality is important in all aspects of developing players. In my work, I will try to get everyone to understand how a quality training session looks, for instance. By securing quality among the coaches, we will ensure that fewer youngsters quit football."
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