Event shines spotlight on the evolution of the football coaching landscape across Europe.
Article top media content
An integrated approach to football coaching lay at the heart of the UEFA Coach Education Conference held in Nyon on 19 and 20 September.
In his introductory remarks, UEFA’s head of technical development, Frank Ludolph, said: “Our coach education philosophy is based on the core principles of empowerment, innovation, respect for national football cultures and histories, and the key theme for this conference – purposeful collaboration.”
Since the conference last convened in 2019, European football has seen a shift towards a common approach to coach education, with 40 of UEFA’s 55 member associations now offering specialised coach educator development programmes and the number of full-time senior staff dedicated to overseeing this crucial function increasing year on year.
By the start of 2024, associations are expected to have their own certification system in place, with a clearly defined philosophy, consistency from entry to elite level, and adequate quality control and assessment processes. To help them achieve this goal, UEFA provides tailor-made support where needed, based around the creation of a reality-based learning environment.
Goalkeeper integration key to success
Dedicated practice sessions focused on fully integrating the goalkeeper, and the goalkeeper coach, in team training, preparation and performance analysis, is proving to be a key enabler for sustained success.
As the modern game has evolved in terms of its tactical, technical and physical demands, so too has the goalkeeper’s role and involvement in match scenarios. To reflect these changes, UEFA’s goalkeeper advisory group has produced a goalkeeping coaching framework. This 33-page document underlines the importance of using an in-game approach when designing practice sessions and helping goalkeepers and goalkeeper coaches develop a wider tactical view of the game.
"One of the biggest challenges has been getting coaches to think 'from the game'," said Packie Bonner, advisory group member and former Celtic FC and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper. "We want goalkeeper coaches to assess what the game is telling them and how that impacts their work with goalkeepers as part of the team.
"Although we have seen great improvements based on this approach, there are still lots of goalkeeper coaches working in isolation. If the head coach can properly connect the goalkeeper with the team, and the goalkeeper coach with the rest of the coaching staff, there are so many benefits. The goalkeeper coach must be considered as important as the other key members of staff."
Staying fit for purpose
The conference also heard from the UEFA Fitness4Football advisory group on the key role of fitness coaches in improving player performance and well-being at all levels of the game.
Comprised of six men and four women, the group’s mission is to support associations in designing and delivering educational content for football and fitness coaches, as well acting as mentors for up-and-coming coaches.
The most recent development is the phased implementation of a new UEFA fitness coach diploma, with pilot courses due to be delivered in selected countries by the end of the 2023/24 season and a full roll-out foreseen for autumn 2024. Content delivered on fitness courses will focus primarily on the application of sports and exercise science theory in practical situations.
By creating a credible and recognised qualification, the diploma will align the learning and certification process across Europe. The main beneficiaries of this new approach will be associations, clubs and the fitness coaches themselves, instilling greater employer confidence in the quality and professionalism of their workforce, and giving practitioners enhanced skills, knowledge and status.
A targeted approach to women’s football
As part of the integrated coaching approach, a significant part of the conference focused on the UEFA Women's Football Competence Framework. Launched this year, the framework’s core objective is to provide students taking UEFA coaching courses with greater insights into the demands and needs of the women’s game, as well as incentivising more women to obtain coach and coach educator qualifications.
Finally, UEFA technical observers Mixu Paatelainen and Jayne Ludlow presented the top technical and tactical trends from the 2022/23 men’s and women’s Champions League season as part of an ongoing project to use data and video analysis of the elite game to support wider coach education.