The 'dos and don'ts' of coaching

Respected coaches David Moyes, Howard Wilkinson and Dany Ryser have given sound advice to UEFA Pro Licence student coaches on the attributes that a coach needs to survive and succeed.

David Moyes speaks to the student coaches in Nyon
David Moyes speaks to the student coaches in Nyon ©UEFA

Be honest; earn respect and trust; know yourself; be flexible; be a leader – just some of the myriad qualities that a coach requires to succeed and survive in modern-day football.

A group of coaches from Austria, Russia, Turkey and Wales who are studying for their UEFA Pro Licence received a comprehensive briefing into the various facets of a fascinating, fulfilling but often precarious and high-pressure job at the latest UEFA student exchange seminar in Nyon.

The group photo of the Nyon course
The group photo of the Nyon course©UEFA

They were the beneficiaries of wise words of advice about the do's and don'ts of the profession from experienced coaches who have 'been there and done that' in amassing experience and honours at national and international levels.

The objective was for the student coaches to absorb essential lessons that will hopefully stand them in good stead as they set out on their career pathway.

A primordial element for a coach is to earn and nurture respect and trust. "The greatest gift that a coach can have is the respect, trust and belief of your players and staff," said Howard Wilkinson, a UEFA technical instructor and former technical director of the English Football Association, who remains the last English manager to win the country's domestic title, with Leeds United in 1992.

Howard Wilkinson is the last Englishman to win the English domestic title - 27 years ago with Leeds
Howard Wilkinson is the last Englishman to win the English domestic title - 27 years ago with Leeds©UEFA

"Qualifications and awards don't necessarily earn you status and respect in the profession," he added. "A great playing career only gets you fame – respect, trust and belief have to be built brick by brick. You must be authentic; if people don't trust you, they won't believe you. If they don't believe in the messenger, they won't believe the message. Telling the truth really matters."

The same viewpoint was conveyed by special guest David Moyes, a vastly experienced coach at the highest level with Manchester United, Everton, West Ham, Sunderland and Preston in England, and Real Sociedad in Spain. "As a coach, you have to earn respect by your actions," he said.

Moyes also underlined the need for honesty in coaches' dealings with players, even if this may have a negative side. "If you are honest, you have to accept that you might be disliked – but I actually think that most players want honesty," he explained.

Self-knowledge and awareness is also perceived as an integral part of a coach's armoury, especially in taking decisions – a point emphasised by Swiss coach and UEFA technical instructor Dany Ryser, who took Switzerland to a much-heralded FIFA U-17 World Cup triumph in 2009.

"You have to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your values and philosophies," he reflected. "And you need to be adaptable, question yourself, develop and grow."

Dany Ryser - world U17 title winner with Switzerland in 2009
Dany Ryser - world U17 title winner with Switzerland in 2009©UEFA

This self-awareness is seen as necessary for a coach to keep focus and maintain clarity in the sometimes tricky and risky process of making decisions on any issue. "Sometimes as a coach you don't have much time to take a decision, for example in crisis situations," Ryser added. "It's important that you take the correct decision as often as you can if you want to be successful.

"Too much emotion will probably not help you make the right decisions," Ryser added. "I think you need to develop a type of inner peace to decide effectively." Wilkinson took the point further. "For example, you might be under pressure in a match, with an important decision to be made with a few minutes to go, and you end up losing your temper – and if you lose your temper, there's a risk that your thinking might not be as clear as it should be."

A coach has to be a leader of people, and know explicitly how to handle players and their different characteristics, the students heard loud and clear. "A manager's job is to take a group of talented individuals and get them to perform to their best together," Wilkinson added. "There has to be give and take to do it together.

Student coaches from Austria, Russia, Turkey and Wales came to the course
Student coaches from Austria, Russia, Turkey and Wales came to the course©UEFA

"You've got to treat players as individuals, not as centre-backs or full-backs – so effective communication is crucial. You need to know what makes people tick; you have to get inside a player's head." Dany Ryser also stressed this point. "Set goals with your players, and be supportive of them, to get them to perform at their best. For this, you need to communicate in an effective and positive way."

"To be a leader," Wilkinson said, "you must be able to create a picture of what you want to do, and where you want to go. Leadership has to be at the heart of what you do if you want to succeed in the modern game. It's about the ability to inspire, to motivate and engage people to realise their potential."

Moyes voiced the view that it was vital for coaches to find the space to switch off from the everyday pressures of their job and keep stress under control. "When I was a young coach, I didn't know or understand what stress was," he said. "If you go into football management, you will be under pressure, you have to get results, and my way of approaching things was simply that I needed to win.

"However, as I got older, I started to understand what stress is, so you do need to try and give yourself a way of relaxing, to try and find yourself some time away from the job, in whatever way is best for you."

A discussion session in Nyon
A discussion session in Nyon©UEFA

Many of the student coaches present in Nyon are eagerly anticipating taking their first jobs in charge of a team and setting out on their chosen path in football. Wilkinson pulled no punches in advising them about the crucial importance of striving to make that first job a success.

“Research in England has shown that 50% of first-time managers don't get a second job in management," he reflected. "This is why winning is important, it's not about playing nice football – it's about how do you win. You have to win, or you won't survive."

It remained for Moyes to answer the question about the advice he would give to the fledgling coaches as they survey the futures ahead of them. "You have to have commitment," he stated emphatically. "If you're not driven by the sport, if you don't love it and make demands on yourself, then you'd better not be in it."