A group of around 90 coaches who are studying for their UEFA-endorsed Pro licence have been in Nyon for the first UEFA coach education student exchange event of the season.
Among them were familiar faces such as former Dutch international Giovanni van Bronckhorst, winner of the UEFA Champions League with FC Barcelona in 2006, and Croatian international Niko Kovač, winner of three trophies with FC Bayern München during an illustrious Bundesliga career.
At the four-day event at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, the Dutch and Croatian delegations were joined by groups of Pro licence coaches from Serbia and Slovenia. "You can learn from other countries, other coaches, other styles," said Van Bronckhorst. "In that aspect, it is quite vital for me and very good to have. I think it is a great thing from UEFA to get countries together because it helps to make you a better coach."
The coach education event was built around the UEFA Champions League matches played on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the students required to exercise their match-analysis techniques on four of the fixtures. Prior to that, Denmark's Peter Rudbæk and England's Howard Wilkinson – the course leaders – had guided the students through the technical trends that emerged at the pinnacle of the game: at UEFA EURO 2012 and in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League.
French technician Jacques Crevoisier had also presented the profile of today's top coach and Wilkinson challenged their commitment to the coaching profession by highlighting the demands awaiting them in the front line of the game.
Much of the course, however, took them to where they will spend a fair percentage of their working lives – the training ground. On the Stade de Colovray pitches which form part of the UEFA complex, the students were charged with planning and executing a series of practical sessions. And it was interesting to see the practical issues they opted to address.
The Croatian students focused on creating and exploiting space for progressive possession; the Serbs on ball possession and game acceleration; the Slovenians on game-building in a 4-2-3-1 formation; and the Dutch on defending and transitions to attack. Each session was followed by a debrief during which areas for improvement were pinpointed.
However, the common denominator in UEFA's coach education events is to prepare the coaches of the future for the realities of their chosen profession. And on the third day, former English international Gareth Southgate stepped on stage to give an interview that illustrated, with great frankness, the difficulties he encountered when ushered directly from his playing career into management of Middlesbrough FC at a time when he was still immersed in his coach education process.
"This is a change from what we are used to having," Kovač commented. "We had done our A and B [licence] courses and I, personally, already have three years' experience as a coach. But I am thrilled by what we have experienced and seen during this course."
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