Apart from their technical and managerial competences, coaches in the future will have to be educated in political awareness and in their relations with fans, media, officials, administrators and agents. That was one of the messages from the Future of Football forum on the third and final day of the 8th UEFA Workshop for Coach Education in Athens.
The open forum on Wednesday morning, led by UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh and featuring contributions from Gérard Houllier, the French Football Federation technical director, and Ginés Meléndez, director of the Spanish Football Federation's coaching school, highlighted the outside pressures on a coach, be it from fans on websites, 24-hour news channels, agents or administrators. With the onus on technicians to be strong and never become hostage to these external forces, leadership training will be vital.
More complex than ever
Gérard Houllier said the coaches had to be trained in handling the decisive first 30 seconds of post-match interviews. He also stressed the need for strong teams both in the dressing room and in the boot room, and even for fostering friendlier ties with match officials. Certainly, unprecedented player power and the diversity of nationalities within squads serve to make the training of coaches more complex than ever, as does the game's entertainment aspect – winning alone is sometimes not enough; you have to try, when possible, to play with style lest you lose the paying spectator, the television audience or the support of the board.
Andy Roxburgh advised delegates to be aware of technological aids such as tracking systems, the internet, artificial turf etc, noting in particular the growing emphasis on cultivating football-conducive playing surfaces. He added that the game's political, administrative and organisation side cannot now be separated from the sporting, so it is another situation that the coach has to find a way of managing.
Greek success story
Aristotelis Batakis, coach education director of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), also had the future in mind when he expressed his confidence in a brighter tomorrow for the Greek coaching community. Batakis mapped out the progress of the coaching sector in Greece since 1998, with the main landmarks being the EPO signing the UEFA Coaching Convention in 2003, and the federation's acceptance in 2007 at the UEFA Pro diploma level.
Batakis's work – that is to say, his vision and his mission – has developed the strategy underpinning the EPO's eight steps action plan which runs until 2014. According to that strategy, which has coach education as the steering wheel of Greek football, the number of coaches with the Pro, A and B licences will rise steadily with a series of signposted dates. Under the leadership of the Greek coaching school, all coaching candidates learn the EPO philosophy of developing talented players, with player selection based on technique, speed, intelligence and personality.
UEFA Jira Panel member Packie Bonner also presented a flavour of the rich feedback from Tuesday's coach education discussion groups. Delegates had put together a wish-list composed of the following elements among many others: a total understanding from the game's powers that be of the need to have qualified coaches; for all countries to get the same opportunities to realise their educational vision; greater recognition of the coaching profession; a focus on youth players and restrictions on scouting at a young age; and that the coach should be both leader and educator. The promotion of continuous development will, of course, be central to this pursuit of an improved coaching environment.
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