Nearly 40 European national associations have sent UEFA Pro licence student coaches to the House of European Football in Nyon to take part in UEFA's coach education exchange programme and gain invaluable knowledge about what awaits them in future careers.
A number of former top-flight footballers from Albania, Armenia, Greece and Montenegro were present for the latest session in a programme which caters for Pro licence students taking first steps towards a coaching career. Guest of honour this time was Gareth Southgate, the former England defender and Middlesborough FC manager.
Participants on each course come from three or four European associations and are led by their respective coach education directors. UEFA appoints experienced tutors/coach educators to work with UEFA's football education services at each event, with members of the UEFA Jira Panel also actively involved. Tutors Howard Wilkinson (England), Jacques Crevoisier (France), Nico Romeijn (Netherlands) and Peter Rudbæk (Denmark) were present in Nyon this week to guide the students in expert fashion.
The course ranges from plenary discussions, presentations on various related topics, and dialogue and debate, to practical training sessions at the Colovray Stadium, opposite UEFA's headquarters. The students were given crucial insights into the highs and lows of the coaching profession, and received the wisdom of top professionals as part of the presentations. For example, a quote from Arsenal FC boss Arsène Wenger made an impact. "You ask me, should I manage? If you are ready to commit the rest of your life to it, knowing that at any one time only a tiny, tiny few can be successful, I would say, 'Yes, go ahead!'"
Howard Wilkinson stressed the dedication and sacrifice needed to be a coach. "Are you willing to commit 10,000 hours of serious study and practice to learning?" he asked, highlighting stark statistics about how so many managers and coaches in their first jobs never get a second one, and how it has become increasingly difficult for trainers to survive and be able to retire on their own terms, as has been the case with Manchester United FC's Sir Alex Ferguson. "You must manage every club as if you are going to be there the rest of your life," Wenger was quoted again, "but don't be surprised if you get the sack tomorrow." "Mere survival in the job is an achievement," said Wilkinson. "Can you cope with that scenario?"
A coach, the students were told by Jacques Crevoisier, must nurture special personal qualities – courage, passion and obsession, decision-making, loyalty, honesty and fairness, hard work, humility, mental strength and the ability to communicate. Defeats require a capacity to bounce back, while a positive attitude, humour and openness to criticism are other assets. "You will always be walking a tightrope," Crevoisier explained, "but always control everything, know the job, show massive passion, be yourself ... and enjoy yourself."
Gareth Southgate, who played 503 club matches and 57 times for England in a distinguished career, offered a fascinating insight into his experiences of finishing his playing days and immediately stepping into management in the Premier League – the demands on him in terms of leadership, communication, player and staff relations, and dealing with the media.
Media duties are among the many tasks befalling a coach, and participants took part in simulated flash interviews that happen immediately after UEFA Champions League matches. They were reminded of the need to have the proper body language and stay focused, given that their post-game comments can turn into the following day's headlines.
Effective crisis management is another part of the job, in the face of issues like poor results, media and fans' pressure, player rebellion and a loss of control. A coach, said Jacques Crevoisier, must take responsibility, be positive, seek positive solutions, show understanding, keep a cool head and manage emotions in an attempt to overcome the crisis situation.
Amid a comprehensive programme, the students were also made aware of UEFA's commitment to eliminating the scourge of match-fixing from football. They were asked to adhere to 'Three Rs' – recognise an approach; reject it by saying no; and report it. It was UEFA's obligation, UEFA intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker told the delegates, to protect players, officials and coaches as well as to safeguard the well-being of European football.
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