Coach education tops Athens agenda

Discussions about the Future of Coach Education in Europe got under way as Andy Roxburgh, Otto Rehhagel and Gérard Houllier helped to launch the 8th UEFA Workshop for Coach Education.

Otto Rehhagel answered questions on day one of the Workshop for Coach Education
Otto Rehhagel answered questions on day one of the Workshop for Coach Education ©Sportsfile

Three days of discussions about the Future of Coach Education in Europe began in Athens on Monday as contributions from expert colleagues Andy Roxburgh, Otto Rehhagel and Gérard Houllier helped launch the 8th UEFA Workshop for Coach Education.

The Monday afternoon session at the Hotel Divani Apollon heralded a busy schedule of presentations, keynote speeches, testimonials and discussion groups for the delegates representing UEFA's 53 member associations – in particular, national technical directors or coach education directors.

Coaching Convention
The eighth staging of the workshop was the direct successor to the 7th UEFA Symposium for Coach Education Directors held in London in September 2007. Then the focus for the biennial event had been the tenth anniversary of the UEFA Coaching Convention. The Coaching Convention was back on the agenda in Athens as a central component of UEFA's Coach Education Programme – Philosophy, Status and Future – as presented by Andy Roxburgh, technical director of European football's governing body.

In his presentation Andy Roxburgh charted the growth of the convention, which has at its core the Pro, A and B licences, all designed to protect and nurture the game, players, coaches and their profession. He underlined the fundamental role of the coach educator, saying: "Without progressive coach education, the game's development is left to chance." Vlatko Marković, the Croatian Football Federation president and vice-chairman of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee, called the UEFA diploma scheme "an institution, and inspiration for other continents".

Study Group Scheme
UEFA's technical director also assessed where coach education presently stood. He explained the purpose of the Study Group Scheme, which encourages visits by technicians to other member associations for the sake of knowledge-sharing. The Coach Education Programme also seeks to engage coaches in dialogue about football, its future, best practice in vital areas, and in networking. Andy Roxburgh cited the UEFA Elite Coaches Forum, where top club football technicians get together to address mutual concerns, as an example for the associations to follow at national level coaching.

Work experience
If the introduction of fitness, futsal and goalkeeping-specific coaching qualifications belongs to tomorrow, equally the technical director signalled the future importance of leadership training for the next generation of technicians – "at the top level the coach's leadership qualities often make the difference". Work experience will become a useful tool, making it possible to judge whether a coach has the necessary competences to do the work – can they handle the job at a professional level, for example?

Monday's programme had kicked off with a video tribute to the late Sir Bobby Robson, the former England manager. Fittingly, Sofoklis Pilavios, president of the host Hellenic Football Federation, then depicted in his welcome message the classical ideal of the coach as a leader – obliged to be an example to those they coach. The Greek connection continued when Greece coach Otto Rehhagel shared his football wisdom with coaching colleagues. Reacting to questions from UEFA's head of football education services Frank Ludolph, Rehhagel pointed to the new pressures on club coaches and spelled out the differences between club and national team management.

National perspectives
Finally, a panel discussion provided an opportunity for the technical directors of Belgium, Denmark and France – namely, Michel Sablon, Peter Rudbek and Gérard Houllier – to list some of the benefits and difficulties arising out of the coaching convention.

UEFA's Jira Panel, monitoring, evaluating and supporting coach education activities, had met earlier on Monday and was represented at the workshop along with guests from world governing body FIFA, UEFA's fellow confederations including CAF and AFC, and the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee.