The 8th UEFA Youth Conference has opened in Cyprus with the first lengthy presentation from UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh, whose talk focused on the development programmes of European football's governing body with particular reference to youth competition and the development of youth coaches.
Roxburgh began by illustrating his own links with junior football, saying: "For me, one of the best periods in football was spent when I was in charge of Scotland's youth team." He went on to discuss youth football in terms of "The Big Picture", breaking it down into six sub-sections.
The first of these was competition, which comprises the UEFA European Championship at Under-17 and U19 levels, the UEFA European Women's U19 Championship, the UEFA Regions' Cup and the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup. "UEFA designs and monitors these competitions, and co-ordinates their running with the local organising committee," explained Roxburgh, who also spoke about the tactical approaches of the finalists at the European U19 Championship earlier this year.
"U19 football is very professional in its approach - it's not 'just' youth football," UEFA's technical director said. "It's very high intensity, a lot of pressing and is professional in tactical and technical terms. In addition, the majority of teams favour zonal defending, which helps to squeeze space."
Roxburgh then described the new format of the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup, which will change for the next version in 2007. "We're intending to train the trainers," he said. "There will be a two-legged match in Barcelona in spring 2007, and we'll invite one national team coach from each of the 52 UEFA member associations and each of the 52 CAF associations. They'll spend a week in Barcelona, watch the matches, presentations and, hopefully, [FC] Barcelona's youth academy and first team in training."
Roxburgh moved on to the expert advice provided by UEFA and the conferences and courses on offer, which are aimed at improving co-operation and technical expertise, with grassroots courses to start next year and youth courses beginning in 2007. He then concentrated on the technical programmes, in particular the UEFA Coaches Circle for practising technicians who deal with UEFA and attend UEFA events.
Robin Russell, UEFA's Football Development Consultant, subsequently took the floor to examine the improved service on offer on the internet, particularly a new extranet site, which will be a private website for coaches. This service will offer a contact directory, calendar, coaching practices, a video and audio section and talks and lectures. It is aimed at improving the information and education available and create a UEFA framework for Europe's élite coaches.
Coaching the coaches
Frank Ludolph, UEFA's head of football education, was next to speak, looking at UEFA's ideas for training coaches. "The JIRA programme is an endorsement initiative aimed at future coaches," he said. "It will feature a coach education convention and is constantly expanding. We aim to have all 52 associations as members, have a renewal policy in place, introduce a youth diploma and have the licence regulations adapted to incorporate a youth element."
Roxburgh then returned to consider the grassroots aspect of UEFA's work, particularly the grassroots charter and technical programmes, the technical reports and newletters and UEFA's mission: to improve the game and increase the interest. Before playing a highlights reel of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League, he left his audience with the words: "Today is the result of what we did yesterday; tomorrow is the result of what we do today."
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