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With the overall well-being of European football in mind, coach education is a No1 priority amid UEFA's list of activities. The European body's coach education work has been given a massive thumbs-up from football personalities across Europe and displays an impressive sense of innovation and care.
UEFA actively encourages the sharing of knowledge between coaches throughout the continent as well as helping those responsible for educating the next generation of coaches. The overriding philosophy is that well-trained coaches will help to produce good footballers – thus giving the entire European game a boost.
To encourage the exchange of ideas and passing on of good practices, UEFA organises a series of conferences and workshops, featuring coaching experts and eminent technicians. A specific course for coach educators is held every two years – most recently in Brussels in 2012. Coaching ideas and trends are also debated at the highest levels of the game. The UEFA Elite Coaches' Forum takes place at UEFA's Nyon headquarters at the start of each season, and the national coaches meet every two years after each FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO.
One of those leading technicians, Chelsea FC's Rafael Benítez, emphasises the necessity for top-quality coach education as offered by UEFA and its national associations. "I think that to improve society you need education; and to improve the level of the coaches, the education is crucial," he says. "People want to learn, they are keen to learn – and the possibility to [give] them this knowledge, I think, it is an important part."
FC Basel 1893 boss Murat Yakin, who has led the Swiss club's march to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, feels the learning process that he undertook as a "rookie" coach was an essential stepping stone to current successes. "Education here in Switzerland is very demanding, but also very informative and instructional," he explains.
"There are many interesting aspects, which I have taken with me to fill up my backpack step by step. I needed time and I took it. I'm happy that I did that education – I started really from scratch and managed to take one step after the other year by year. I am benefiting from it and am happy that I did that education.”
In 2011, UEFA initiated an innovative student exchange programme with the goal of giving UEFA Pro licence students the opportunity to discuss ideas and take on board best practice. Many students are former top flight and national-team players setting out on a new path as a coach. The objective of the scheme is to afford Pro licence students the chance of an international exchange as well as access to UEFA, its tutors and educational materials.
A German international of the recent past, Jens Lehmann, has attended a UEFA student exchange programme in Nyon, and stresses the positive aspects of the scheme as a crucial personal learning experience.
"They have been talking a lot about the philosophy of a coach, and I think they want to prepare [students] for what will come up, what we have to take care of," says Lehmann. "They get you prepared: what you need to consider, how your life changes when you become a coach. I think it's a good school for everyone who still doesn't know if they will become a coach or not."
Coach education is also an important element of UEFA's Study Group Scheme, in which groups of national associations come together to swap invaluable advice to help each other in the constant quest for improvement across the continent.
The Jira Panel – comprising distinguished technicians from all around Europe – lends its wisdom and experience in the service of the overall drive to nurture the well-being of the European game. The panel backs the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee in its work and, more specifically, advises UEFA, UEFA's 53 member associations, clubs and third parties on coach education matters.
The panel also contributes to the application and implementation of the UEFA Coaching Convention, which seeks to protect the coaching profession and smooth the way for the free movement of qualified coaches within Europe in accordance with European law.
Coaching coaches to bring out the best in footballers – a component of UEFA's technical education palette that will continue to bear impressive fruit and help ensure European football's continued good health.
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