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Coaching and coach education: A key factor in UEFA’s football development vision

UEFA firmly believes that coaches and coach educators have a vital role in the development of players and the game. Coaches aim to bring the best out of players – and coach educators perform a crucial role in teaching coaches how to coach at various levels.

England manager Gareth Southgate - seen here advising his team at a UEFA EURO 2020 match - has shared his experiences at UEFA coaching courses
England manager Gareth Southgate - seen here advising his team at a UEFA EURO 2020 match - has shared his experiences at UEFA coaching courses AFP via Getty Images

In a keynote speech at the 13th Global Coach Conference of the International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE) in Lisbon, UEFA’s head of technical development, Frank Ludolph, explained UEFA’s long-standing commitment to coaching and coach education, as well as the body’s vital support to its 55 member associations to raise coaching standards across Europe.

Frank Ludolph
Frank LudolphUEFA

"Our mission is to provide high-quality technical programmes and support systems designed to improve football development throughout Europe and as a reference beyond," Ludolph told the audience at the University of Lisbon.

"UEFA is setting high coach education standards to improve the quality of coach education in all UEFA member associations, with the aim of developing better coaches and, ultimately, better players and the overall quality of the game."

Coaching excellence platform

The conference of the International Council for Coaching Excellence, which is held every two years, brings together coaches, coach educators, researchers, sport scientists, technical directors and sport administrators to address issues in coaching, to learn about new coaching research, and to share experiences with the world’s top coaching development experts.

John Bales, ICCE president

"UEFA is leading the way in coach education internationally with lots of innovative initiatives using the principles that ICCE have promoted over the last decade. We are very proud to have this collaborative partnership with UEFA and look forward to continue to work together for years to come."

Sergio Lara-Bercial, ICCE manager for strategy and development

"Having worked on a variety of projects with UEFA and their head of technical development Frank Ludolph and his team over the last 10 years, I can honestly say that they are one of the most proactive and progressive ICCE partners.

"The work done to support 55 National Associations and to create a community of coach developers across Europe, especially during these difficult COVID times has been inspirational to many in the coaching community."

The UEFA Coaching Convention

Ludolph explained the importance of UEFA's Coaching Convention – now into its fourth edition – in providing the framework in the drive to take the coaching profession forward, lending status and credibility to the coaching profession, and giving meaning to a vital role.

Guaranteeing a unified and minimum standard of coach education across UEFA's member associations, the Convention also helps protect the coaching profession, raise quality levels and facilitate the free movement of qualified professionals within Europe.

UEFA endorses licences at C, B, A and Pro levels, with specialist qualifications also available at Youth B, Elite Youth A, Goalkeeper B, Goalkeeper A and Futsal B levels.

Helping coaches learn and develop
Helping coaches learn and developSportsfile

These licences are issued by member associations whose courses must meet UEFA criteria and standards, which are regularly revised and updated as the game develops.

To date, more than 204,000 people possess valid UEFA-endorsed football coaching licences .

Improved standards – enhanced status

Ludolph emphasised that the Convention ensured, among others, unified minimum criteria at C, B, A and Pro levels, as well as enhanced coach education pathways, specialist coach education, protection and better development of players, effective exchange between national associations, and further education opportunities.

Discussing ideas at a recent UEFA Coach Education Conference in Cyprus
Discussing ideas at a recent UEFA Coach Education Conference in CyprusSportsfile

"Coaching standards are improved at all levels," he said, "and the coaching profession is guaranteed increased status.

"National association diplomas and licences are recognised as UEFA diplomas and licences, and mutual recognition and cross-border movement is ensured In line with European law."

Increasing female coach numbers and opportunities

UEFA is currently placing particular emphasis on increasing the number and quality of female coaches. “This is an issue that we are addressing,” said Ludolph.

"The ratio of female coaches to male coaches is only six per cent. A coach development programme for women is aimed at increasing that percentage."

Participants at a UEFA women's coach development course
Participants at a UEFA women's coach development courseUEFA via Getty Images

The UEFA women’s coach development programme is offering female coaches scholarships for UEFA diploma courses (Pro, A, B, C, youth, goalkeeper and futsal). The programme also provides education for female coach educators, as well as technical support to the national associations for women's coaching courses and workshops.

In addition, a coach mentor programme is giving active coaches who hold a UEFA A or Pro diploma the opportunity to make important career steeps.

The 'teachers and students' are in regular contact each month, and the mentees enjoy privileged access to information, guidance and advice by experienced coaches which provide them with useful tools to elevate their coaching careers.

Preparing pro licence coaching students

A training session at a UEFA student exchange programme course
A training session at a UEFA student exchange programme course UEFA via Getty Images

UEFA’s much-respected UEFA pro licence student exchange programme is equally crucial in nurturing budding coaches from throughout Europe.

Specific sessions for groups of national associations, held at UEFA’s Swiss headquarters in Nyon, brings together UEFA pro licence students from different footballing backgrounds – including former top players setting out on coaching journeys - for discussions, exchanges and practical training sessions.

Presentations by experienced frontline coaches, coach education experts and UEFA technical instructors focus on leadership, decision-making, how to deal with crisis situations, mental strength and dealing with pressure and the human skills required to handle media, players and supporter expectations.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez speaking at a UEFA student exchange course in Nyon
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez speaking at a UEFA student exchange course in NyonUEFA via Getty Images

"This programme is a very valuable exercise that brings added value to what Europe’s associations are doing," said Ludolph.

"Top coaches, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate are also ready to share their own invaluable experience at our courses."

Why grassroots coaches matter

Turning to grassroots coaching, Ludolph emphasised the significance of having qualified coaches in a sector that UEFA considers to be crucial for the game.

A children's coaching session in Finland
A children's coaching session in FinlandUEFA

"Grassroots football is football for all," he said. "Football which is played by the masses at a level where participation and a love of the game are the driving forces.

"It is vital that we increase the quantity and quality of coaches at grassroots level throughout our member associations," Ludolph reflected, adding that it was important to teach children about football in a fun and positive environment that is not about results, while making sure they are enthusiastic and that football becomes part of their lives.

Consequently the 2020 edition of the UEFA Coaching Convention provided for a new UEFA C Diploma for grassroots coaches as the starting point of the core educational pathway.

Teaching children how to love football
Teaching children how to love footballSportsfile

National associations are being asked to meet the convention’s criteria and introduce the new diploma over a three-year period, as well as review their grassroots coach education pathway and develop suitable strategies for the future.

Looking at post-COVID realities

Ludolph, closing his address at the Lisbon conference, underlined that the COVID pandemic had brought significant changes to the technical development sector in general, and specifically to coach education.

"We have actually used the pandemic as an opportunity to look into new ways of cooperating with the national associations in this area, while also asking the associations to innovate and help the game prepare for new post-COVID realities," he explained.

"The pandemic has changed education forever," he added. "And the journey to raise the bar continues. We all want to bring football development to the next stage - nobody wishes to stagnate."

Former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson gives UEFA invaluable coaching assistance
Former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson gives UEFA invaluable coaching assistanceGetty Images

Sir Alex’s wise words of advice

Ludolph quoted the legendary former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson’s wise words about why coach education is so valuable in breeding quality coaches to foster footballers’ development and take European football forward – “I fully recommend that all coaches, even former top players, follow the full coach education pathway. It will definitely help them cope with the demands of the game…”

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