UEFA's work to develop the grassroots game alongside its member associations has created a culture of collaboration with exciting new programmes underway across the continent.
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The launch of the new UEFA C Diploma for grassroots coaches represents a major step in raising the overall quality of football throughout Europe.
By better educating coaches across its 55 member associations, one of the key aims of the UEFA Coaching Convention, European football's governing body is able to ensure more players are receiving high-quality training, which in turn helps improve the standard of grassroots, and subsequently, elite football.
"UEFA coach education leads the world in its modern approach, philosophy and methodology and with this new qualification we are showing we remain committed to setting and raising the standard at all levels of the game," says UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
The C Diploma offers a fantastic introduction to coaching for anybody working in grassroots football, providing the tools to deliver safe and enjoyable age-appropriate sessions that instil a lifelong love of the game for players of all ages, genders, abilities and backgrounds.
"Our primary goal is to create happier, healthier people. We want players to enjoy playing football, develop their skills and remain in the game for life," adds UEFA chief of football development, Maxwell Scherrer. "Better coaches create better, more engaged players, and by keeping more people playing the game we can improve the game at the top of the pyramid."
UEFA has worked closely with associations to develop new grassroots coach education strategies as part of the C Diploma launch, allowing staff and educators to connect online, share and collaborate on the new course content ahead of its launch.
Here are a few of our favourite initiatives so far from across the European football community.
Scottish Football Association (SFA)
Highlight: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish FA coach education department has used its new online platform to continue to deliver courses to the highest standard. Moving from on-pitch group scenarios to home-based learning has been a key tactic in ensuring programmes continue to thrive.
Key quote: Greig Paterson, Scottish FA head of coach education & development, Greig Paterson: "The opportunity to deliver courses online has allowed us to excel despite the difficulties going on around the world. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with more and more people wanting to continue on the coaching pathway. The interest in all of our courses has been overwhelming, while many more coaches have found the online and blended learning delivery models much more accessible and user-friendly. While our objective will be always be to try and satisfy that demand, we must always endeavour to provide the very best coach education experience possible."
Football Association of Ireland (FAI)
Highlight: Building on recent coach education successes, the FAI has collaborated with UEFA and other associations, as well as eliciting feedback from hundreds of coaches, to shape a new coaching pathway for the 2021-2025 period, which includes the UEFA C Diploma, as well as introducing a formal coach educator qualification.
Key quote: FAI head of coach education, Niall O’ Regan: "Our new coaching pathway is focused on implementing the 2020 UEFA Coaching Convention with age-specific courses in youth and goalkeeping and the introduction of the UEFA C Licence and a formal coach educator qualification. We are very much looking forward to shaping a brighter future for Coach Education."
Football Association of Finland (SPL)
Highlight: Finland's aim is for every player to have access to a trained and competent coach. To achieve this, the association is working directly with grassroots clubs, where coach educators can deliver specific training and mentor coaches within their own club environment.
Key quote: Matti Lahitie, SPL head of coach education: "The development of coach education in clubs is very important to us and we want to support coaches to develop their confidence and competence, which is often easier in their own settings. The course provides the understanding and knowledge but the direct work in clubs gives coaches the opportunity to put their new knowledge into action during and beyond the course."
Italian Football Federation (FIGC)
Highlight: The FIGC has launched a new App Evolution programme for coaches at youth clubs, offering resources and education to help them develop their teaching skills and in turn the quality of the players in their care, raising the overall standard of grassroots football across the country.
Key quote: Vito Di Gioia, FIGC director of youth and education: "It is critical in this modern day to support coaches, parents and volunteers in clubs with a technology-based solution that is easily accessible. The App Evolution programme enables us to communicate effectively with clubs and coaches across the country, providing technical and educational curriculums and streamlining our resources to support growth in these key areas."
Austrian Football Association (ÖFB)
Highlight: The ÖFB has recruited over 140 new coaches to deliver the UEFA Playmakers programme, which uses Disney storytelling to attract young girls to football. 95 of these coaches are women, with around 80 per cent entirely new to football-specific coaching. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 sessions have already been delivered across the country.
Key quote: Lisa Alzner, UEFA Playmakers expert and ÖFB coach educator: "This programme has a key goal of bringing more young girls to football but at the same time we also have the opportunity to give opportunities for more women coaches to be part of the programme who possibly have no football experience. The education and more importantly the experience of delivering Playmakers gives a learning opportunity and improves confidence to work with children."
Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB)
Highlight: Rinus is a free online tool and app developed by the KNVB for all grassroots coaches in the Netherlands. The app contains exercises, training sessions, multi-week training plans and a video and information library - accessed by around 30,000 coaches per month. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has provided 80,000 coaches with special exercises and training sessions designed to comply with social distancing rules.
Key quote: Gijs de Jong, KNVB general secretary: "Improving football by making use of innovative technology is a key asset in our strategy. I would recommend every federation in the world to use Rinus Football. The results will be amazing!"
Belarus Football Federation (ABFF)
Highlight: The ABFF has adopted UEFA practices, including the C Diploma, to introduce a holistic approach to coach development, moving away from a focus on results in order to develop well-rounded personalities who can contribute to the development of football. A team of coach educators have been trained to offer these courses nationally from 2021.
Key quote: Evgeniy Shpakov ABFF grassroots coach education manager: "We have witnessed a cultural shift in the way that our coaches now understand how to introduce the game to children. An important task was to create an approach to education and training that would leave the coaches with a desire for constant excellence. We understand that it is important to keep every person, especially every child in football, regardless of their talent, skills and abilities."