The success of the inaugural UEFA Youth League season through the eyes of the coaches taking part in this vibrant new competition, and the coaching philosophies of experienced German trainer Thomas Schaaf – a regular participant in UEFA coach education activities and the new boss of Eintracht Frankfurt – are among the highlights in the latest edition of UEFA's official coaching publication UEFA•technician.
The UEFA Youth League, which featured the 32 clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League, offered a fascinating window through which to view many of the young players who will be hitting the headlines in the coming years. The final round in Nyon in April provided splendid entertainment for the considerable numbers of people who turned up.
Jordi Vinyals, head coach of the FC Barcelona team who took the title, is full of praise for the introduction of the UEFA Youth League. "It was fantastic for the boys," he said. "But it was also fantastic for the technical staff – an experience which makes you improve a lot on all levels. It was a test for the club and all of its infrastructures. For the coaching team, the medical team, the media department, the administration ... It was an important international competition and it was good to experience the demands it puts you under."
FC Schalke 04 reached the semi-finals, and their coach Norbert Elgert is equally effusive: "Starting when you travel with the senior professionals during the group stage of the competition, you learn how everything works and you get an insight into the pressures. It helped the lads to develop further by being able to compete with so many playing styles and philosophies. It helps them to advance in their profession and it was an enriching experience for me as a coach."
Staying in Germany, Schaaf has given UEFA outstanding support in imparting his experience to students at the European body's Pro licence student exchange courses. Before taking the helm at Frankfurt, Schaaf won six trophies and led SV Werder Bremen on six UEFA Champions League campaigns. In an extensive UEFA•technician interview, Schaaf muses about how the top-level coach's job has evolved over the years.
"It's changed so much," Schaaf reflected. "When I look back at the start, it was a completely different situation. You had a head coach, perhaps an assistant, but you tended to not have a goalkeeping coach or anybody else. Today, it's a different picture. Before, you spent more time on the field, but now that's been pushed aside a bit. You have plenty of other jobs and the demands have become much more intensive. The person who used to be a 'drill leader' is now much more of an organiser and a man-manager. And the players have also changed. It's a new generation now, which poses new challenges for a coach."
The FIFA World Cup in Brazil has shown the immense value of having a top-quality goalkeeper, both in terms of shot-stopping and agility, but also as a team player able to initiate his side's attacking moves. UEFA is launching its new UEFA Goalkeeper A licence as part of the European body's ongoing plan to integrate the specialist positions of goalkeeper and goalkeeper coach more closely into the coaching family, and UEFA•technician explains the move with the help of UEFA tutor Packie Bonner, the former Republic of Ireland custodian.
Another specialist area being addressed by UEFA is futsal coach education, and UEFA•technician looks back at the recent third pilot course in Prague – aimed at presenting the blueprint for the UEFA Futsal B licence to coach educators and technical directors from UEFA's member associations.
As is customary at this time of year, UEFA•technician honours the coaches that won trophies and finished runners-up in the various UEFA competitions over the past season. The magazine also announces the decision to produce a technical report on the UEFA Europa League, bringing the competition further into line with the UEFA Champions league.
UEFA•technician remains an informative read for those with coaching and football's well-being at heart.
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