Coaching hopefuls from Austria, England and Germany have spent time at UEFA's Nyon headquarters this week for the latest four-day seminar organised as part of the European body's innovative coach education exchange programme for UEFA Pro licence students.
A number of former professional players, seeking their way up the coaching ladder, took part in the seminar at the House of European Football. Group discussions, forum sessions, analysis of this week's UEFA Champions League matches and talks with professional coaches were all on the agenda.
Participants on each course come from three or four European associations and are led by their respective coach education directors. UEFA appoints experienced tutors/coach educators to work with UEFA's technical director and UEFA's football education services at the event, with members of the UEFA Jira Panel also actively involved alongside guest presenters.
"The aim is provide Pro licence students with an international exchange," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. "And we'd like you to have access to UEFA content and tutors as well. Our objective is to offer help to the associations in the vital area of coach education."
The scheme's inaugural pilot course was held at UEFA HQ in May, before a second pilot event staged in Denmark in June. Associations have welcomed the chance to trade ideas with their foreign counterparts and to examine trends in an international context.
The coaches were given a wealth of invaluable advice. "The most important thing is never to stop asking questions," said Roxburgh. "You get information, it develops relationships, it helps you and others to improve, to motivate people, stimulate people's thinking, and it builds trust." A discussion took place on how a coach deals with crisis situations, the mental strength required to cope with the pressures of the job, and the human skills such as honesty, good communication, passion and a positive attitude that are needed.
Nico Romeijn, director of coaching academies at the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), participated on behalf of the Jira Panel. "A winning team is about attacking, defending and transition," he said, "so you have to have a clear destination for your team – you have to know your team's strength and weaknesses, and what you want your team to achieve. You have to make tactical and physical training plans if you want to be successful. You have to be able to deliver knowledge to players and to communicate. And you always need to keep learning to keep improving."
Guest speaker Gareth Southgate, the former England international who is now head of elite development at the English Football Association (FA), provided a fascinating insight into the move from being a top-level player to a manager at an English Premier League club and how he experienced and coped with the demands of the new role. The students also found out what top coaches are looking for from player-tracking systems such as Prozone and surveyed the current tactical trends in the UEFA Champions League.
Media training is a crucial feature of the modern coach's education in order to deal with the written press, radio and television. Two student coaches were put through their paces in a simulation of a flash interview, which normally occurs immediately after a UEFA Champions League match, to discover how they would react, and the positive and negative impacts of their comments to the camera – comments which may well end up as the following day's headlines.
A number of essential questions were put to the students that they will need to ask themselves at the outset of their careers. "The top coaches have total dedication and drive. Are you ready to commit yourself to the demands? Do you have clear values? Are you able to visualise where you want to go? Do you enjoy dealing with perhaps half a dozen problems every day? Do you like working with people? Can you adapt? How would you deal with top players? Can you cope with the press? These things will be key to your success and survival as a coach."
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