Potential elite coaches of tomorrow from four European national associations have gathered at the House of European Football in Nyon this week as the latest participants in UEFA's innovative coach education exchange programme for UEFA Pro licence students.
The student coaches – some of them fresh from outstanding careers as players at the highest level – came from the Azerbaijani, Estonian, Russian and Welsh national associations. The exchange is now well into the final stages of its first official season.
Participants on each course come from three or four European associations and are led by their respective coach education directors. UEFA also appoints experienced tutors/coach educators to work with UEFA's technical director and UEFA's football education services at each event, with members of the UEFA Jira Panel also actively involved alongside guest presenters.
This time around, the course was guided and directed by UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh together with experienced coaches and coach educators Howard Wilkinson (England), Dany Ryser (Switzerland) and Nico Romeijn (Netherlands). That trio are all members of the Jira Panel which advises UEFA, UEFA's 53 member associations, clubs and third parties on coach education matters.
Discussions, exchanges of views and educational sessions were on the course agenda – with specific topics covering how a coach deals with crisis situations, the mental strength needed to cope with pressure, and human skills – honesty, good communication, passion and a positive attitude – that must come through.
A media session also afforded delegates the chance to test their ability in the flash interview situation seen on television after a UEFA Champions League game, as well as enlightening them on how to interact with, and react to, the written press, radio and TV. In sessions at the Colovray Stadium opposite UEFA's headquarters the coaches took part in teaching practice, and they were also able to analyse the current trends in the UEFA Champions League as well as specifically examine the tactical and technical developments that marked Tuesday's gripping semi-final between FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC.
One guest of honour was the vastly experienced Belgian national-team coach Georges Leekens, who gave an entertaining hour of insights into the job at club and international level. "Work, work, work – and keep your eyes open for new things," he said. "Keep updating your ideas – give clear messages, make use of your experience. Give responsibility to your players – and stay yourself."
Andy Roxburgh made a telling comment to the student coaches that while playing experience at high levels would certainly be an advantage, they would also need to develop other facets as a coach. "Having played doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to coach," he explained. "Coaching takes in other aspects such as communication, organisation, teaching ability.
"Feel good on the training field, get the appropriate coaching education, get work experience where you can, use mentors to help you on the way, always keep learning – and life experiences will help you relate to players and guide them," he added.
Howard Wilkinson urged knowledge of oneself and confidence of expression as central factors on a coach's road through his career. He said: "If [players] do not believe in the messenger, they will not believe in the message, so you've got to know what you stand for, where you're going, how you're going to get there – and it is a commitment for life." Nico Romeijn emphasised the philosophical nature a coach must find to survive football's highs and lows. "You've got to learn how to handle losing as well as winning," he stressed.
The next session, from 7 to 10 May, will see delegations from Belgium, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland come to UEFA's headquarters.
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