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New UEFA mentor programme set to boost female coach numbers

Coaching Coach

UEFA is spearheading the drive to increase the number of club and national teams coached by women - thanks to a programme in which experienced coaches are acting as personal mentors to up-and-coming female coaches.

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

UEFA has launched an ambitious mentor programme to build on impressive progress in its Europe-wide efforts to increase the number of club and national teams coached by women.

The UEFA Coach Mentor Programme for UEFA Pro and A diploma holders will see a team of experienced coaches, a number of whom are in charge of men’s and women’s national teams, act as personal mentors to a group of up-and-coming female coaches holding UEFA Pro and A diplomas.

Over an 18-month period, the mentor coaches will meet regularly with their mentees to share experiences, help develop their coaching skills, provide direction and problem-solving tips and show them what it takes to be successful at the highest level.

The programme, which was set in motion by an opening workshop at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, follows a successful one-year pilot project featuring a group of four mentors and mentees

Doubling in percentage of UEFA-licensed female coaches

The programme not only reflects UEFA’s drive to improve the quality of coach education, with the aim of developing better coaches and, ultimately, better players and the overall quality of the game – it is also a key part of UEFA’s efforts to bring about a marked increase in the number of female coaches with UEFA-endorsed licences across Europe.

Frank Ludolph explained the reasons for the programme
Frank Ludolph explained the reasons for the programme©UEFA

“Statistics have led us to launch programmes such as the mentor-mentee project for women’s coaches,” said UEFA’s head of football education services, Frank Ludolph. “When we began the pilot project, only 3% of the 190,000 coaches in Europe with UEFA-endorsed licences were women. 

“It was clear to us that this situation could not continue – the percentage has now risen to 6.5, and we are determined to ensure that the number of licensed female coaches will continue to rise.”

The mentors in the UEFA programme:

Hans Backe (experienced Swedish coach of several national teams), Corinne Diacre (France national women’s team coach), Kasper Hjulmand (Denmark national men's team coach), Joseph Montemurro (Arsenal women’s team coach), Nils Nielsen (Switzerland national women’s team coach), Patrizia Panico (Italy boys’ U15 national team coach), Vera Pauw (Republic of Ireland national women’s team coach), Even Pellerud (Norwegian Football Federation coach educator), Hope Powell (Brighton & Hove Albion women’s team coach), Anna Signeul (Finland national women’s team coach) and Martin Sjögren (Norway national women’s team coach).

The mentees:

Iris Antman (Israel women’s U19 national team coach), Sharon Boyle (Football Association of Ireland development officer), Emma Coates (England women's U18–U20 national team coach), Katerina Falida (Greece women's U19 and U17 national team coach), Nora Häuptle (Switzerland women's U19 national team coach), Tina Kelenberger (Slovenia women's U17 national team coach), Ieva Kibirkstis (Hittarps IK (Sweden) coach), Marianne Miettinen (Football Association of Finland head of performance), Katrine Pedersen (Denmark women's national team assistant coach), Hege Riise (LSK Kvinner Fotballklubb (Norway) coach), Marzena Salamon (Poland women's U19 national team coach), Aleksandra Sevoldajeva (FC Flora Tallinn (Estonia) women’s team coach), Renée Slegers (IF Limhamn Bunkeflo (Sweden) coach) and Montserrat Tomé Vázquez (Spain women's national team assistant coach).

Sharing experiences

The mentors will share their own experiences of successes and failures, help the mentees set realistic career goals and provide them with support and networking possibilities, and watch the mentees in action, giving them constant feedback and encouragement.

Martin Sjögren (left) will be mentor to Marianne Miettinen
Martin Sjögren (left) will be mentor to Marianne Miettinen©UEFA

In return, the mentees will travel to meet their mentors, watch them at work and attend relevant events with them. The aim is to motivate the mentees to focus fully on their own career, professional development, ambitions and challenges, and give them the self-esteem and confidence to make their way forward as a coach. 

“Mentoring is about imparting knowledge and experience that you don’t necessarily find in a book, you have to tell the person who is being mentored,” the mentees were told by Nyon workshop leader Christina Stokkland, a senior leadership, mentoring and coaching expert from Norway. “You will learn a lot – and I’m sure the mentors will also learn from you.”

Future of women in coaching

Mentors and mentees have unanimously welcomed UEFA’s initiative, not only for the future of women in coaching but also to help them in their own learning process. “The initiative and the creation of such a network of [mentors and mentees] means that you’re giving coaches the opportunity to gather new and fresh experiences,” said Patrizia Panico.

Marzena Salamon (left) with her mentor Corinne Diacre
Marzena Salamon (left) with her mentor Corinne Diacre©UEFA

“I wish I could have been mentored at a given moment,” added Corinne Diacre, “to  have received help and advice about my direction. We need to promote women in football, and I think this initiative can help give young coaches a little more confidence in themselves to turn their passion [for football] into a profession.” 

“Coaching is something that’s in constant evolution,” Joseph Montemurro reflected. “There’s never an ending point – you’re always learning, whether it be the technical, tactical or mental aspects. This initiative will be important for my progress as well.”

To give back is a privilege

“One of the things that gives meaning to your coaching life is to be able to give back {knowledge and experience] to players and coaches,” was the view of Kasper Hjulmand. “It’s not just about winning cups and championships – to give back is a privilege, and it’s something that we have to cherish.”

Mentee Emma Coates with mentor Hans Backe
Mentee Emma Coates with mentor Hans Backe©UEFA

The mentees are relishing the prospect of bolstering their experiences with the help of coaches who have ‘been there and done that’. “The list of mentors is very impressive,” added Renée Slegers. “I’m really happy to be part of the programme and to be given this opportunity.” Emma Coates is looking forward to “sharing ideas, sharing best practices and learning from each other”. 

Katrine Pedersen said that the advice given to her so far on her coaching journey will be reinforced through UEFA’s programme. “When I stopped playing, I did think to myself: ‘Who do I learn from now?’ But you really find that you never stop learning and getting inspiration both from coaches and players, and this programme will also be important for the development of coaches.”

Crucial for development of the game

The last word goes to a mentor, Vera Pauw, who emphasises that initiatives such as this UEFA programme are crucial for the development of the game as a whole.

“I’ve never had secrets in my work,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to share my knowledge, and I’m sure that all the mentors are looking forward to sharing theirs with the new generation of coaches – because the future of the game will be in their hands.”