What does a club expect from a head coach?

A coach has to consider various things before taking a job at a club - and, as UEFA Pro Licence coaching students heard - this includes meeting the club's expectations and ensuring that his/her profile fits the club's environment

Former FC Basel president Bernhard Heusler
Former FC Basel president Bernhard Heusler ©UEFA

What does a club and its president/owners expect from the head coach? And how does a coach match these expectations? A key question put to Pro Licence coaching students from England, Italy, Spain and Sweden at the latest UEFA seminar in Nyon.

Bernhard Heusler – president of Swiss club FC Basel between 2012 and 2017 – gave the student coaches wise and experienced words of advice from a new and different angle, as they embark hopefully on coaching journeys.

Heusler, at the helm in Basel during a period when the club won eight successive Swiss domestic titles, looked at the need for coaches to find a balance between reality and expectations in considering whether to take a job with a club in this fulfilling, but high-risk and high-pressure profession.

Heusler explained that it was essential for coaches to compile a personal profile, to be sure that it fitted the profile and working environment of a club that was considering employing them.

Student coaches from England, Italy, Spain and Sweden attended the seminar in Nyon
Student coaches from England, Italy, Spain and Sweden attended the seminar in Nyon©UEFA

“Do a self-awareness test to know what you are, be conscious of your strengths and weaknesses as a person and a coach,” Heusler told the students. “Because you will not fit every club. I feel you have to be honest with yourself.”

Heusler encouraged the coaches, before considering taking a job, to do proper “due diligence” on prospective employers. “Look at the club closely,” he reflected. “Find out how the club is lead, learn about the club’s values and philosophies.”

“Study the club’s history, read the media and find out the objectives of the club and its owner(s) – could you fulfil their dreams? Look at how they communicate… ask yourself: ‘Can I work with the people at this club?’ This ‘due diligence’ will be of great help to you.”

A key part of a coaches’ armoury, Heusler continued, is to steer clear of unrealistic expectations and targets.

“Part of being honest and having realistic expectations,” he said, “is to know that if you lose your job at a club in Switzerland that is facing relegation, one of the leading clubs in the German Bundesliga is not likely to give you a job.”

Heusler urged the student coaches to avoid “hangers-on” who might have a dangerous and negative influence. “You’re in the public eye, and there will be people who like to be close to you because of this,” he explained. “Not all of them are honest, and they won’t give you the right picture of reality.”

Coaches’ self-assessment process, Heusler went on, also had to involve an honest personal appraisal about their capacity to deal with the various facets of the job. “You must ask yourself if you can cope with the high pressure and public interest in you,” he said.

“You will have situations where the president may doubt you, or you’re not popular with half of the players because you’re not picking them for the team, or because journalists are criticising you. It’s certainly crucial that you can always accept that you will be criticised.”

The group photo from the Nyon seminar
The group photo from the Nyon seminar©UEFA

Heusler pulled no punches with the student coaches in pressing home the need to face realistic facts – in particular, that the coaching profession can be an uncertain environment.

“It’s a wonderful job to be a coach, but it isn’t the most secure job,” he emphasised. “if you want a secure job, then perhaps you shouldn’t be a coach…but you can help yourself by looking for a good environment to work in.”