UEFA's coach development programme for women is paying dividends, with more participants than ever stepping forward to develop their skills.
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Sarina Wiegman. Sonia Bompastor. Marina Voss-Tecklenburg. That was the final shortlist for UEFA's Women's Coach of the Year award for 2021/22.
It was the first time in the award's short history that the top three was made up of solely female coaches, each of whom had inspired their teams to incredible levels of performance during the year.
That trio, and particularly award winner Wiegman, who led England's Lionesses to a first UEFA Women's EURO title, provide a motivation for others across Europe who want to take up coaching. Indeed, the last seven Women's EUROs have now been won by female coaches, and three of the four semi-finalists in 2022 were also coached by women.
Thanks to UEFA's coach development programme for women, there are now more opportunities than ever to take UEFA coaching courses.
The programme launched in 2019 as part of the organisation's women’s football strategy, #TimeForAction, and aims to increase both the number of qualified female coaches and the total club and national teams coached by women.
The initiative offers scholarships for UEFA coaching courses (Pro, A, B, C, youth, goalkeeper and futsal), which are delivered via member national associations, as well as providing courses for female coach educators and technical support for women's coaching courses and workshops.
Since the 2018/19 season, the coach development programmed has funded 1,001 scholarships for women across Europe to enrol in UEFA coaching courses.
At which level were scholarships awarded across Europe during the 2021/22 season?
Youth A 9
Youth B 15
Goalkeeper B 5
🇮🇪 Feeling the benefit: Republic of Ireland's example
One example of where the coach development programme for women has been especially successful is in the Republic of Ireland, where over the past six years, they have enjoyed a huge growth in the number of graduates.
In 2016, there were just ten female coaches in the country with a UEFA coaching licence. Fast forward six years and the landscape has been radically altered. By introducing a female-only course and with the creation of the UEFA C diploma for grassroots coaches, several potential barriers to participation have been removed, and as of April 2022, there are now 230 female UEFA licence holders registered with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).
"This has all been down to the financial support and scholarships provided by UEFA," says FAI head of education, Niall O'Regan. "Thanks to UEFA for the support to maximise the opportunities for women`s coaches."
One beneficiary is Clare Conlon, FAI grassroots regional development officer. "Without the women-only course, I probably never would have had the confidence to apply for the UEFA B diploma at all," she explains. "When the opportunity arose to learn alongside my female peers, who I knew, I would feel comfortable being vulnerable around, this created the perfect learning environment for me, and would act as the catalyst I needed to advance along the coaching pathway.
"I am now currently a participant on the Mainstream UEFA A diploma. I would never be at this point without the support of UEFA, who have provided the opportunity for me to thrive as a coach, through the facilitation of female-only courses and through funding support to continue my journey on to the A diploma. Without this support I would never have had the confidence or financial means to apply for further licences."
Marie Crowe is a sports broadcaster who has also developed her knowledge thanks to a UEFA coaching course.
"I found doing the UEFA C diploma benefited me in several ways - on a practical level I improved all aspects of my coaching, on a personal level I grew in confidence and on a professional level my career as a sports broadcaster has progressed to the next level," she explains. "I credit the knowledge I gained from the course and the understanding of the game I developed for the progress that I have made."
How can you get involved in the UEFA coach development programme for women?
For information about the UEFA coach development programme for women contact email@example.com.
For information relating to specific coaching courses, please contact your national football association.
Developing the elite
As part of the coach development programme for women, UEFA also runs a mentoring scheme to help professional female coaches reach their potential.
Also launched in 2019, the scheme gives active coaches who hold a UEFA A or Pro licence the possibility and encouragement to move forward in their careers by pairing them with an experienced, high-profile figure from the coaching world.
'Teachers and students' are in regular contact, and the mentees enjoy privileged access to information, guidance and advice to elevate their coaching careers.
Previous and current mentors include national team coaches from the men's and women's games, such as Kasper Hjulmand, Hans Backe, Corinne Diacre and Hope Powell, while Norway women's coach Hege Riise was among the first group of mentees.
How can coaches apply for the mentor programme?
The next mentor programme starts in June 2023. Coaches have until 27 January to apply via their respective national associations.