Preparing for reality is the key theme being conveyed at the 19th UEFA Course for Coach Educators taking place in Brussels this week.
Coach educators and technical experts from all of UEFA's 53 member national associations have gathered in the Belgian capital for the four-day course, with Belgium coach Georges Leekens and Denmark's Morten Olsen among the coaching luminaries offering advice on how to prepare student coaches for the role of football technician, manager or leader.
Following welcome messages by Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB) president François De Keersmaecker and third vice-chairman of UEFA's Development and Technical Assistance Committee Dušan Bajević, the highlight of day one was a thought-provoking presentation from UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh on the demands of top-level football.
"The key message here is about reality," Roxburgh told UEFA.com. "If you are going to train the next generation of coaches you need to train them for the reality of the business. The focus has to be on what exactly they have to do and what competences are they going to need to do the job, and then to try to educate them in as real an environment as possible.
"We will highlight some of the things that student coaches learn to do. A lot of associations are already doing it but at this event they may get another angle or idea on it."
Imparting further perspectives to begin day two of the course were two members of UEFA's Jira Panel – Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) technical director Ginés Meléndez and former technical director of the URBSFA-KBVB, Michel Sablon. Both men outlined the procedure of studying for, and obtaining, the UEFA B, A and Pro licences in their countries.
While Meléndez illustrated the RFEF's successful system of coaching the coaches, Sablon explained the coach education philosophy and methodology in Belgium, with emphasis on the mission statement that better coaches will provide better players. Sablon, who retired as technical director in January, was also presented with a special award for his outstanding contribution to coach education in Europe.
Adding to the wealth of experience and knowledge, national team coaches Leekens and Olsen were special guests for a question and answer session entitled "Life on the frontline". In a fascinating insight, Leekens spoke about how football has changed over the course of his career, while Olsen emphasised the importance of being yourself as a coach and defending your convictions.
The exchange of ideas has always been a central objective of UEFA's education initiatives and this was at the forefront of six discussion groups involving participants on the course. Each group was given questions to debate, focusing on the main challenges that the associations face in coach education, further support from UEFA and how to prepare student coaches for the reality of the coaching profession. Feedback was later relayed in the main auditorium by the group leaders.
On the importance of sharing information, Roxburgh added: "The coaching colleagues here are aware of what UEFA is doing, they are aware of what other countries are doing, and this helps them when reflecting on their own programmes."
As well as the theory, another essential part of the course is practical work. This took effect when the delegates travelled to the URBSFA-KBVB technical centre in Tubize to view a specially arranged match between the Belgium Under-18 and U19 teams, both managed by student coaches as part of their simulated Pro licence education. The two coaches were also subjected to simulated post-match television interviews in order to test how they would react in such a scenario.
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