An innovative student exchange programme for coach education has successfully started at pilot level with an inaugural gathering at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon.
The programme has received the invaluable support of UEFA's Executive Committee and its goal is to give students of the UEFA Pro licence opportunities to swap international knowledge, as well as to enjoy direct access to UEFA tutors and content as part of their education. It is another step forward in UEFA's coach education work in conjunction with the European national associations.
Pro Licence students from the Czech Republic, Poland and Scotland were present at the first four-day pilot course. The participants in each course will come from three European national associations and will be led by their coach education director. UEFA appoints an overall course director to coordinate the event, with members of UEFA's Jira Panel also becoming actively involved along with guest presenters.
Directing the course in Nyon was distinguished English coach Howard Wilkinson. Former England defender Gareth Southgate was also present for a fascinating insight into moving from playing into a manager's role.
Discussions, presentations and practical sessions were all on the menu, and highlighted the spirit of cooperation between UEFA and its member associations. The course examined the profile of a top coach – which has evolved in line with the development of modern players – and the tasks of a coach relating to, among other things, player recruitment, decision-taking and managing or leading a team.
The students were also given a comprehensive appraisal of how a coach should deal with the media, which are looking for headlines and angles to boost circulation. A positive attitude and calmness are felt to be essential in handling the media, in particular in the high-pressure situation of a post-match interview.
Dealing with crisis situations, such as a run of poor results or media pressure, will almost inevitably be part of a coach's work. The students were advised that coaches should maintain their composure; keep perspective and have trustworthy advisers; show resilience; and focus on looking for solutions.
Experienced Polish coach Jerzy Engel echoed the thoughts of all concerned in welcoming the student exchange scheme. "The European exchange of coaching ideas is most important for young coaches," he said. "They are just about to start their careers. Soon they will not only start working in their own countries, but also thanks to obtaining the UEFA Pro diploma, the whole of Europe, or actually the world, is open for them.”
"Therefore being here, in the football heart of Europe, in a place where all the most important things in European football are created, in a place where all those who decide about European football meet, is undoubtedly something special for everyone who comes here."
Another key element of a coach's job is match analysis, to look not only at their own team’s performances but to fine-tune tactics and observe opponents. Students were shown a series of technological tools which are used by coaches, and analysed the week's two UEFA Champions League semi-finals as training.
"They have to watch these games as if they were actually coaching them," said Engel. "If they became coaches of these teams, what conclusions would they draw? All these lessons on how to operate in European and world football are invaluable for them."
"How do you develop as a coach? It's about coach education and you as an individual," UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh told the students. "It's your personal study, the experience that you gain, your football background, contacts that you make. It is lessons from life – and if you've been lucky enough to play in the professional game, that will stand you in good stead. If you have not, you will need to compensate by being very knowledgeable, a great communicator and so forth. I wish you all the best."
The objective is to launch the student exchange officially with up to four events during the 2011/12 campaign. The second pilot course will be staged during the first week of the forthcoming UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Denmark.
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