The UEFA Study Group Scheme enters its fourth season in 2011/12, enabling national associations to continue exchanging technical expertise for the overall benefit of European football.
The study group scheme, which is an initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, aims to facilitate the greater exchange of technical know-how as member associations visit one another to share knowledge, experience and best practice in coach education as well as elite youth, women's and grassroots football. The scheme also works to raise pan-European standards through, for example, visits by association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – to gather technical tips at other associations and also at club level.
Some 54 seminars are planned for the coming season – with one new departure involving four additional pilot seminars for goalkeeping coach educators. The first goalkeeper coaching course has already taken place in Brussels. The Republic of Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands are also to host goalkeeper coaching courses, and all of UEFA's 53 national associations will take part in at least one of the four events. Three goalkeeping coach educators per association will attend a specific seminar.
The response to the Study Group Scheme has been extremely positive since the initiative began in 2008, and in December 2010 the UEFA Executive Committee decided that the scheme would become a long-term educational programme. In total, 156 seminars have been held over the first three years – 46 on elite youth football, 44 on coach education, 35 on grassroots and 31 on women's football. These have been hosted by 30 different FAs and have engaged some 5,000 technicians from around Europe, as well as all members of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee.
This year's schedule comprises 11 gatherings on coach education, 16 on elite youth football, 16 on grassroots football and 11 on women's football. There will be 29 different host associations, including five new hosts – Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Moldova and Slovenia. Again, the Development and Technical Assistance Committee will be on hand to provide expert input.
The specialist position of goalkeeper is a welcome addition to the programme. "The Belgian Football Association was honoured to have the opportunity to stage the first UEFA seminar for goalkeeping coaches," said Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB) president François De Keersmaeker. "Following our exchange of information, I noted that opinions were very positive and favourable towards the initiative."
"Sixteen nations took part in the seminar," added URBSFA-KBVB technical director Michel Sablon. "It comprised nine theoretical presentations and five practical demonstration sessions featuring Belgium's youth national team goalkeepers. The chief objective was to propose new methods of education and up-to-date technical elements for goalkeepers, according to the different target groups."
Specialist goalkeeper instructors – former professionals themselves – embraced the course in Brussels. "It was interesting to meet so many goalkeeper specialists from all these different countries, and the various exchanges and conversations between them helped highlight the work being done in each country," said UEFA technical instructor Joel Corminboeuf. "It's very important to organise these courses and interchange information among experts in the different countries to develop, construct and produce the perfect goalkeeping trainer coach course in the near future. This was a great start," added UEFA instructor Frans Hoek.
Bringing technicians together for Study Group Scheme activities also underscores the educational aspect of the programme. "It is always good to bring people together from different countries and cultures," said UEFA Jira Panel member Lars Lagerbäck. "It doesn't matter if you have been a coach or instructor for 30 years – you can always find something new to think about or learn."
"We are extremely pleased to be able to add this additional specialist education to the Study Group Scheme," concluded UEFA's head of football education services Frank Ludolph. "A clear link will be established with the guidelines for goalkeeper coach education that were worked out recently by the UEFA Jira Panel. The four hosts are associations experienced in education for this specific coaching target group."
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