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Student coaches learn the ropes

Pro licence student coaches from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Turkey have been given a wealth of invaluable advice as part of the UEFA coach education exchange programme.

Participants at the coach education exchange course in Nyon
Participants at the coach education exchange course in Nyon ©UEFA

Potential coaches from four UEFA member associations – Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Turkey – have taken another important leap forward in their learning paths this week after attending a course at the House of European Football in Nyon as part of UEFA's innovative student coach education exchange programme.

Pro licence students from throughout Europe, many of them former professional players starting out on a coaching career, are given the chance to have international exchange with counterparts from other countries and access to UEFA, its tutors and educational materials. During the course, they hear crucial information and insights about the positives and negatives of coaching life.

Participants on each course represent three or four European national associations and are guided by their respective FA coach education directors. UEFA appoints experienced tutors/coach educators to work with UEFA's football education services at each event, with members of the UEFA Jira Panel also actively involved alongside guest presenters.

The student coaches heard that a coach's development is dependent on a variety of elements – coach education, personal study, work experience, football background, coaching contacts and lessons from life. The coach must also develop the man-management skills and mental strength needed to take charge of a squad of players with different characters, as well as to cope with crisis situations and deal with the media.

UEFA Jira Panel members Dušan Fitzel and Piotr Maranda were joined by UEFA technical instructors Jacques Crevoisier, Jim Fleeting and Erich Rütemoller for three days of discussion and debate on issues such as the profile of the elite modern coach, leadership and management issues, and tactical and technical trends within the top-level game. The student coaches were also asked to analyse various aspects of two of this week's UEFA Champions League games.

"The coach must have key leadership qualities," Crevoisier told the students. "Starting with a passion and obsession for the game. He must have decision-making skills, be loyal, honest and fair, have appropriate psychological skills – and a sense of humility in addition to mental strength."

The coach must also be able to communicate: to nurture individual relationships, resolve conflicts, and boost players' confidence. An openness to criticism and the ability to bounce back from bad experiences or results are a must for a coach to survive and thrive.

The course constantly emphasised the devotion, drive and passion that coaches would need in their jobs. "So you want to be a coach?" asked Fleeting. "Are you obsessed by the subject? Are you ready to commit the rest of your life to it, as well as hours of study and practice to learning? Do you know what you really value and believe in? Do you know who you are, your strengths, your weaknesses and can you live with that person?"

Budding coaches had to face up to essential questions about whether, for example, they were people or task-oriented, able to visualise and implement ideas, and have the ability to change how others think, believe and behave.

A highlight of the course saw former England defender Gareth Southgate show engaging honesty in a face-to-face interview, telling the students about his experiences in moving immediately from being a top-flight player to a manager with Middlesborough FC, and affording invaluable advice on the do's and don'ts of a high-pressure job. The students also received tips on handling the media, taking part in a simulated flash interview situation immediately after a UEFA Champions League match.

National associations and their participants are full of praise for UEFA's coach education exchange work. "I am going back from the student coach education exchange programme with increased self-confidence," said Mehmet Özdilek, head coach at Antalyaspor.

"We learned a lot in the coach education exchange seminar, just like we did in the UEFA Study Group Scheme," added Tolunay Kafkas, director of football development with the Turkish Football Association (TFF). "We thank UEFA for these programmes."