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The countless benefits of the UEFA coach mentor programme

In a recent in-depth interview, we talked to two participants of the 2019-21 UEFA coach mentor programme - Joseph Montemurro and Renée Slegers - about the benefits of the programme from the perspective of both mentor and mentee.

Renée Slegers in action for the Netherlands
Renée Slegers in action for the Netherlands

What is the UEFA coach mentor programme?

After a successful pilot programme in 2018, UEFA launched the UEFA coach mentor initiative as part of its wider coaching development programme for women in October 2019. The mentor programme placed a team of very experienced coaches who are all currently active in football as mentors to a group of up-and-coming female coaches.

Why does UEFA have a coach mentor programme?

The programme reflects UEFA’s drive to improve the quality of coach education across European football, with the aim of developing better coaches and, ultimately, better players and improving the overall quality of the game – it is also a key part of our efforts to bring about a marked increase in the number of female coaches with UEFA-endorsed licences across Europe.

Find out more here. 

What are the other elements of the UEFA coach development programme for women?

The UEFA coach development programme for women offers female coaching scholarships (up to 90% of the course fee and a maximum of €12,000) for UEFA diploma courses (Pro, A, B, C, youth, goalkeeper and futsal). The programme also provides education for female coach educators, technical support for women's coaching courses and workshops.

Find out more about the UEFA coach development programme here.

Impacts of the programme for mentors and mentees

During the 2019-21 programme, Joseph Montemurro, head coach of Juventus Women played mentor to Renée Slegers, current head coach of FC Rosengard, who have won the Swedish league eleven times, the latest in 2019.

About Joseph Montemurro

Montemurro played as a midfielder during his playing career, mainly in Italy, before returning to Australia to play in the Victorian state leagues. He began coaching in youth football for various Victorian clubs, before his first managerial role with Sunshine George Cross.

Joseph’s first job abroad came in 2013, spending four months as the inaugural manager of Papua New Guinean team, Port Moresby. From 2014 to 2017, Joseph managed the women's sides of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, and then replaced Pedro Martínez Losa as manager of Arsenal, where he won the league title in his second season. In 2021, Montemurro moved to Italy to join Juventus Women as head coach.

About Renée Slegers

Slegers is a Dutch football coach and former international midfielder. As a player, Slegers represented Willem II, and Swedish Damallsvenskan clubs Djurgårdens IF and Linköpings FC. Slegers won 55 caps for the Netherlands women's national football team and appeared at UEFA Women's Euro 2013. Slegers is currently head coach of the IFC Rosengard A team after a successful period managing the youth team.

In a detailed interview, we talked to Joseph and Renée about the positive impacts of the programme for mentors and mentees with each describing some fascinating insights about their key learnings, favourite moments and more.

What are your key learnings from the coach mentor programme?

JM: The most important learning was to listen and understand the context of the mentee and their background. It wasn't only about discussing football but also about how the impact of football affects life and growth. It was a valuable learning exercise for myself as I developed some deep insights in the areas of empathy and understanding.

RS: Having a mentor in my decision-making to assist with career choices has been very helpful. Also, discussing football philosophy and methodology for training sessions has been inspiring.

What is your favourite moment from the coach mentor programme?

JM: I really enjoyed the problem-solving discussions. I also enjoyed getting together in the forum with other mentors and mentees to discuss football and life in general.

RS: My favourite moment was my study visit at Arsenal - Joe really encouraged me to participate during all meetings and training sessions. He was very open and inviting which was very inspirational.

Joseph Montemurro congratulating his players in a UWCL match between Arsenal and Fiorentina
Joseph Montemurro congratulating his players in a UWCL match between Arsenal and FiorentinaGetty Images

What are the main benefits of the coach mentor programme?

JM: It is an extremely special initiative from UEFA; to have someone there to listen is extremely precious - especially for young, developing coaches. Thanks to the programme, as a mentor I could share invaluable real-life experiences which cannot be found on the internet or in books.

RS: One of the main benefits was seeing Joe in action - and learning from his leadership style. Joe has a very ‘human’ way of leading individuals and groups which is very positive and impactful.

What are your tips for females who would like to get involved in coaching?

JM: My tip to all coaches is to be you. Do not copy someone else's personality or character because your unique personality is what makes you special. Try to develop a clear style of football and work out the best and simplest way to translate your style to performances on the pitch.

RS: Get involved! There are more and more opportunities. If you have passion and are interested in working with football, leadership, working with teams, don’t hesitate - go for it. Take chances and get out of your comfort zone.

How can we attract more female coaches to work in football?

JM: I believe it is a responsibility of the industry to think long-term. When clubs and football organisations do this, the coach and the organisation can grow together. Sadly, the cut-throat nature of coaching and its short-term thinking can sometimes make it unattractive. However, if we start to offer good job security, growth and investment in professional development, working in football will become much more attractive.

I also believe coaching shouldn't be the only way for females to work in men’s or women’s football. Whether it is working in the medical department or back-room office, the scope and ability to work in football should offer similar security and professional development opportunities, like other industries.

RS: Ideally, men and women should be provided equal opportunities during recruitment processes. In general, we need perceptions to change around coaching - so it’s not viewed as a predominately male role. Additionally, increasing the promotion and availability of programmes such as this UEFA one will help - they provide precious access to role models who offer inspiration, guidance and advice which will only encourage women to further advance their coaching careers.

Anything else you would like to add about the programme?

JM: Due to the pandemic, we were unable to meet as a group and discuss on a regular basis. However, I believe the mentor programme is a great opportunity for likeminded people to get together, share learnings, and in doing so, improve the overall development of the game.

RS: The programme has been excellent. I’m happy to have met Joe and we will stay in touch after the programme. I’m planning a visit to Juventus soon! Even though the mentorship programme has ended, our professional friendship will continue.

Who are the mentors and mentees for 2021-23?

Anna Signeul (head coach Finland women’s national team) and Liene Vaciete (head coach Latvia WU17)

Corinne Diacre (head coach France women’s national team) and Maryna Lis (head coach Belarus WU17)

Even Pellerud (Norway coaching instructor, former head coach Norway and Canada women’s national teams) and Stella Gotal (head coach Croatia WU17)

Hans Backe TV commentator, former men’s coach - New York Red Bulls, Notts County and Finland national team) and Britta Carlson (assistant coach Germany women’s national team)

Hege Riise (head coach Norway WU19) and Sirje Roops (assistant coach EST women’s national team and head coach JK Tammeka women’s team)

Hope Powell (head coach Brighton and Hove Albion women’s team) and Mari Savolainen (head coach Helsingin Palloseura women’s team)

Joseph Montemurro (head coach Juventus Women) and Michaela Danĕčková (assistant coach Czech Republic WU17)

Martin Sjögren (head coach Norway women’s national team) and Camille Abily (assistant coach Olympique Lyonnais women’s team)

Nils Nielsen head coach Switzerland women’s national team and Roos Kwakkenbos (head coach NED WU19)

Ulrike Ballweg (head of talent development women’s and girls football Germany) and Gemma Grainger (head coach Wales women’s national team)