Over two decades, UEFA's Coaching Convention has improved coaching standards, promoted the credibility of the coaching profession and paved the way for the free movement of qualified coaches within Europe.
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Players produce moments of brilliance and score goals that create headlines and excite the fans – but such talents require the help of coaches to reach fruition.
In turn, the high-quality coaches needed to foster players have to be trained properly to achieve such qualities. Hence the crucial role that coach educators undertake with care and dedication throughout Europe.
UEFA places considerable emphasis on the proper education of football coaches – basing its mission on the premise that well-trained coaches help produce better players and teams, which ultimately leads to an overall improvement in the quality of football across Europe.
One of the core elements in this drive to “coach the coaches” is the UEFA Coaching Convention.
Over the past two decades, the convention – of which 53 European national associations are currently members – has improved coaching standards, promoted the credibility of the coaching profession and paved the way for the free movement of qualified coaches within Europe. Thanks to its existence, around 200,000 coaches across Europe have a UEFA-endorsed coaching qualification that allows them to practice their profession.
UEFA’s head of football education services, Frank Ludolph, explained the achievements and benefits of the Coaching Convention when coach educators from Europe’s national associations gathered in Belfast for their latest UEFA conference to review and reflect upon the development of coach education and the coaching sector.
“It is certain that the convention has raised the level of coach education in all of our member associations throughout Europe,” he said. “There is also a much stronger recognition of the coaching profession, and also of the status of the coach.”
The desire to foster quality coaches underlines UEFA’s fierce commitment to ensuring the future quality of football which, as the convention states, lies to a large extent in the hands of the coaches, who have a vital role to play in the development of the players and the game.
The convention is also an instrument in contributing to European integration through stipulations ensuring mutual recognition of coaching qualifications from country to country.
“This means that coaches can go from one national association to another to work,” Ludolph explained. “It also means freedom of movement, and this is very much in line with European Union jurisdiction.”
UEFA’s convention equally ensures unified minimum standards of coaching to guarantee the performance quality of coaches acting on UEFA’s territory.
“Importantly,” said Ludolph, “the comprehensive coaching licence requirements laid down in the convention also protect footballers from exposure to unqualified coaches without the requisite education, who might have an effect on their physical, psychological or technical development.”
On the coach education front, the convention pledges to promote and foster football coach education throughout UEFA’s territory, and for all competitions organised by UEFA and its member associations, while ensuring that coach education remains under the sole control of UEFA and its member countries.
UEFA is currently implementing a revised version of the convention which meets modern requirements and reflects developments in coaching and coach education across the continent. Its implementation is being monitored by the UEFA JIRA Panel, a body composed of experienced, eminent technicians who have often coached themselves at the highest levels of the game.
“The game has further evolved, and up-to-date coach education must reflect the fact that demands on coaches are higher than ever,” said Ludolph.
In addition, UEFA’s recent introduction of specialist goalkeeper and futsal coach education programmes, including coaching licences in these two sectors, are reflected in the convention.
A research study, conducted by Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom, has helped set the course for the coaching convention’s future. The study, including a survey of national associations, focused on the impact of the convention since its launch in 1998, and has identified three immediate priorities: reality-based learning – preparing coaches for the everyday realities of their job; development of coach educators – enhancing their qualities to nurture high-calibre coaches; and further education - maintaining and further developing UEFA licence holders’ competence as football coaches.
Key activities are now being developed in these three priority areas to take the convention, coach education and coaching forward in the years to come.
The value of the UEFA Coaching Convention is emphasised by coaches who have worked at the very highest levels.
“Coach education has to be well-structured, multi-layered and constantly adapted to the evolution of the game. UEFA realised this many years ago with the introduction of the Coaching Convention.” – Germany coach Joachim Löw
“It’s essential that anyone looking to be a coach gets enrolled onto a coach education programme. UEFA have worked really hard to ensure that this opportunity is available right across Europe.” – UEFA coaching ambassador Sir Alex Ferguson
“I am witnessing the massive impact of the convention on the development of the game, Future professional coaches are benefitting from high-quality coach education, and the educator is crucial. This key technician needs to be empowered.” – UEFA technical director Ioan Lupescu
“This is a profession. It’s something you have to learn, so the learning process is vitally important.” – France coach Didier Deschamps