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Would-be coaches from four European associations – many of them former top-level players – have been given an extensive insight into the coaching profession at the House of European Football in Nyon.
UEFA's innovative coach education exchange programme for Pro licence students taking their initial steps on the coaching ladder, brought representatives from France, Hungary, Italy and Spain to UEFA headquarters. Guest of honour was Switzerland boss Ottmar Hitzfeld – a UEFA Champions League-winning coach with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and FC Bayern München in 2001.
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 lend the student coaches expert guidance through the three days of study.
The course offers room for discussion and debate, exchanges of views and practical training sessions at the Colovray Stadium, opposite UEFA's headquarters. "It gives me great pleasure and pride to see so many footballers here in this room," UEFA President Michel Platini said in welcoming the course delegates.
A key theme of the deliberations was the strength of character and conviction of message that coaches need to survive in the game. A comment by Sir Alex Ferguson made its mark at the seminar: "If you are a young coach who is eager to learn, absorb everything you hear from your older colleagues – those who have survived – because they have a story to tell."
Wilkinson posed a series of questions to the students, placing particular emphasis on the passion and sacrifice required to prosper in a precarious job. "Are you obsessed by the game ... are you ready to commit the rest of your life to that journey? Do you know what you value? Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Can you influence how people think? Can you handle problems and setbacks? Are you people or task-oriented? Are you open-minded and ever eager to learn, and willing to change?"
Wilkinson quoted one prominent coach: "Nothing prepares you for becoming a football manager – you'll never understand pressure until you become one. Welcome to the land of no sleep."
Crevoisier highlighted the various stresses that are put on coaches, from the necessity for results to the expectations of club chairmen and fans, and underlined the human and leadership qualities, mental strength and firm values that have brought the great coaches consistent successes.
Romeijn cited the importance of learning quickly, asking questions, gathering crucial experience and observing other coaches, in addition to nurturing and developing a knowledge of football and having the ability to communicate and lead people.
On top of the discussion sessions, practical training gave Peter Rudbæk the chance to impart teaching practice to the participants, who were also asked to analyse the week's two UEFA Champions League semi-final second legs.
In an on-stage conversation with UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu, Ottmar Hitzfeld provided the students with a rich reservoir of advice and know-how gleaned from his outstanding career. "I was very happy about being invited," he told UEFA.com. "I heard who would be here, which former players are here who want to become coaches as well. This has always been a great challenge for me, to help and support them and to show what is important to me. I want to share my experiences."
Coaches must also be able to handle the media attention. A media session afforded the students the opportunity to test themselves in the flash interview situation seen on television after UEFA Champions League matches, as well as showing them how to interact with, and react to, the written press, radio and TV.
The final day brought a presentation on what coaches should be aware of in relation to match-fixing – a scourge which UEFA is determined to eliminate from the game as a number one priority. Coaches were asked to adhere to 'Three Rs' – recognise an approach; reject it by saying no; and report it. UEFA's task, said UEFA intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker, was to protect players, officials and coaches, as well as to safeguard the well-being of European football.
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