So you want to be a professional coach? UEFA has been asking this question of students at its innovative UEFA Pro licence student exchange courses in recent times. Participants are confronted with a number of issues which make them reflect not only on the pleasures, but also the pitfalls of a job which brings its major share of pressure.
The latest edition of the official UEFA coaching publication UEFA•technician looks at the implications of becoming a coach, and how coaching is perhaps not so much a job of work but ultimately a life choice.
In his column, UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh recalls the challenging question put to UEFA Pro student exchange candidates by eminent English technician Howard Wilkinson – "Are you obsessed by the subject [coaching], and are you ready to commit the rest of your life to it?"
Roxburgh emphasises the particular demands on a professional coach, and how they can endanger a person's well-being and family life due to the requirements of players, media, sponsors and owners. "In professional football," he explains, "the to-do list is exacting, but it is the pressure that is wearing. The constant demand to produce results, the burden of dealing with elite players, the stress of trying to satisfy hungry media, and the multifarious difficulties imposed by time restraints, crisis situations, intrusive agents and all-powerful owners take their toll."
This notwithstanding, Roxburgh considers that for most top coaches, the highs outweigh the lows. And for those UEFA students who do go into the profession, the realities will soon become clear. "It will be a job which quickly becomes a way of life."
Once into the job, coaches develop and mature, both as coaches and as people. UEFA•technician analyses how many of the great coaches have learned through education, work experience and the invaluable advice given by mentors on their path towards the summit of their profession. In addition, the coaches did not necessarily have to be leading players – Real Madrid CF boss José Mourinho is one shining example – but they all count on special life experiences, qualities and personal characteristics that have moulded them into successful technicians.
"It is a mixture of coach education, playing the game, coaching teams, making contacts, using mentors and working with football people which combines to produce the mature coach," says Roxburgh.
"Coaches, then, need to know how to coach, teach, manage, lead, learn, communicate, organise, plan, prepare, analyse and select. But this will not be enough, as Vicente del Bosque, Spain's reigning world and European champion coach, said at a UEFA coaches' gathering: 'If you only know football, you are lost ... Top technicians José Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson and the others know football, but they also know about life ...'"
Women's football is flourishing in Europe, and UEFA•technician spotlights coaching in the female game. Two women who are vastly respected, former Germany coach and triple EURO winner Tine Theune and current Scotland manager Anna Signeul, give a fascinating insight into the state of women's coaching as this area of football evolves constantly in tactical and technical terms.
The two technical observers at the recent UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Slovenia, Ross Mathie and John Peacock, survey the evolution of youth football – and especially how the balance must be found between creating a winning, creative mentality in youth teams while also placing priority on player development rather than results.
Finally, UEFA•technician salutes the coaches who reached the finals of the European club and national-team competitions in the 2011/12 campaign. It also gives a fascinating insight into the world of coaching, coach education and development, and the visions and philosophies of the leading technicians.
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