The national coaches of England and Ukraine highlight the key role of UEFA training in their successful transformations from international player to international coach.
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Two national team coaches – England's Gareth Southgate and Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko – both naturally have had the UEFA EURO 2020 draw at the forefront of their thoughts.
But this hasn't stopped them taking time out this week to thank UEFA for giving them the training that has helped them achieve their current coaching prominence.
Southgate and Shevchenko enjoyed distinguished playing careers before taking the coaching pathways provided by the European body – and have been giving insights to experts from across Europe at this week's UEFA Coach Education Conference in Cyprus.
Southgate – a people person
Southgate, who has led England to the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Nations League semi-finals in the past two years, is looking forward eagerly to the EURO after his buoyant young charges topped their European Qualifiers group, winning seven out of eight matches and stacking up an impressive goal difference of 37-6 into the bargain.
The 49-year-old told the Nicosia conference in a video interview that, in his view, the human touch was an essential aspect of a team's success. "I think that, first and foremost, we have to remember that we are coaching and developing people – not everybody is the same," he said.
"Obviously as coaches, we're judged on results and whether we win, but to do that, you've got to get the processes right, and create the right culture and environment – that comes through developing and coaching the individual."
Picking a diverse staff
The former England international defender, who took over in autumn 2016 after managing Middlesbrough and the England Under-21 side, stressed the importance of having a staff around him that always serves as a crucial source of ideas and advice.
"International football is different to club football in terms of its rhythm and the time that you have to prepare," Southgate explained. "But what is consistent is that all of the staff see the game differently – their diversity of thinking, personalities and characters is really important.
"It's impossible as a coach nowadays to have all the answers to all of the problems – so to involve your staff and make them feel fulfilled is a big part of your job as the head coach," he added.
"You have to delegate, and appoint people who challenge you and feel they can bring their own ideas to the table. If you can achieve this as a collective, you can go further as a team."
Opening minds and unlocking thinking
Southgate welcomed coach education as a vital element in the drive to produce high-quality coaches and, by association, better players, and underlined his gratitude to UEFA for helping him to find his way in the profession.
"I think that education opens your mind to new ideas covering all areas of the game that you need to have an awareness of," he said. "It unlocks your thinking.
"I don't think that the objective of coaching education is to give you all the answers – but it does point you in the right direction, and helps you make contacts with people that you can have relationships with forever.
"The time I spent with UEFA at courses and the interaction with other coaches was so stimulating and played a big part in forming my philosophies on the game."
Shevchenko – learning through UEFA
Andriy Shevchenko also passed through UEFA coach training channels after an outstanding career as a striker with Dynamo Kyiv, Milan and Chelsea at club level, and 111 appearances and a record 48 goals over 17 years with Ukraine's national team.
His talented and combative Ukrainian squad proved too good for the rest of the opposition in the European Qualifiers – they were unbeaten in their eight group outings, six wins and two draws helping them finish three points clear of reigning European champions Portugal at the top of the section.
Taking the helm of the national side in 2016, Shevchenko's fledgling steps as a coach included, among other things, attending UEFA's coach education student exchange programme as a Pro licence student.
It was a key factor in preparing the 43-year-old for a front-line coaching career. "During my training at coaching courses as part of UEFA's programmes," he said, "the theoretical and practical knowledge I gathered formed an excellent basis for my future work.
"The things I learned, the information I took in, has really helped me and Ukraine's coaching staff to organise our work and raise the quality of the national team's training."
Like Southgate, making contacts and swapping views and ideas with other coaches and experts at such UEFA gatherings proved an essential part of Shevchenko's learning curve.
In his opinion, UEFA's drive to generate this international coaching dialogue across Europe can only benefit coaches and the game.
"I have extensive international experience, because I played in different countries," he reflected.
"I feel that the exchange of similar experiences that is now happening between national associations is very important, because coaches hear and learn more ... and this is what helps them progress."
Both Southgate and Shevchenko are optimistic that the teams they have built can make a notable mark at EURO 2020 – and the acumen and experience collected in learning their trade will stand them in good stead in their quest for European glory.