Women’s football is on the rise. More female players than ever before are taking part in the game as it continues to flourish on and off the field.
UEFA is delighted with this progress, having set women’s football as a top priority, and has now targeted substantial growth in another area of the women’s game – namely, raising the number of qualified female coaches throughout Europe.
The programme dedicated to achieving this target, the UEFA Coach Development Project for Women, is now in full swing, following its launch in 2016. The programme’s aim is to bring about a rise in the number of qualified female coaches, as well as the number of clubs and national teams that are coached by women.
UEFA’s programme funds the training of aspiring female coaches by way of scholarships for UEFA A or Pro diploma courses. UEFA is also giving its backing to UEFA B and C diploma courses, organised by the associations, and which are tailored to female coaches.
The European female coaching elite has given a resounding thumbs-up to the programme to get women coaching and qualified. Sarina Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the UEFA Women’s EURO title on home soil last summer, and Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, in charge of Switzerland at the EURO, fully encourage women to pursue coaching ambitions.
“I think it's really good that women are getting these chances,” says Wiegman. “I also think that women need to seize these opportunities. I say: just do it; follow your dreams and do what you enjoy. Then there will be plenty of opportunities.”
Voss-Tecklenburg concurs: “I think that in a lot of countries, there are lots of good women who just need encouragement and support, a push in the right direction, in order to start training as a coach. That's why it’s fantastic that this project exists to give encouragement and really go down that path and to show women, ‘Yes, you can do that. Just do it.’”
Spain’s national women’s team coach Jorge Vilda says that the UEFA project is also offering female players the chance to stay in football as coaches once they hang up their boots. “There are a lot of women who have no way of staying involved in football, once they’ve stopped playing,” he says.
“Thanks to UEFA and its member associations, more and more women are staying in football and are becoming better qualified to coach teams, both at the top level and at the grassroots.”
Germany’s coach Steffi Jones believes that UEFA’s project gives women the essential self-belief to take up coaching: “When you see what UEFA is achieving with this project,” she says, “getting women to go for it too – that’s something very important because lots of women, or women who are ex-players, maybe lack the confidence to do that.”
“Once they’re there, they can see how you can bring on female players – after all they used to go to training themselves – they get to see what you can achieve and what you can build up.”
The coaches quoted here give their expert views and messages of support in interviews for a video produced by UEFA to highlight the programme. In addition to endorsing UEFA’s project and explaining why they love coaching, they also stress the vital role of effective coach education – and back the firm belief that well-trained female coaches will help foster good female footballers and, in doing so, raise the overall standard of women’s football.
“If we want to improve our football,” Sarina Wiegman reflects, “then we need to be producing good coaches. Good coaches help with people’s personal development, as well as helping them to develop as players.”
UEFA has taken another key decision recently to ensure that an increasing number of women coaches can put their education into practice and be involved in the game. In the UEFA women’s competitions, a proviso has been introduced whereby one female coach must be part of a team’s coaching staff by 2020.
This move should give positive momentum to a trend that is already making itself particularly felt at the highest national team levels. “The last EURO showed that more and more women are taking up leading coaching roles at international level,” says France coach Corinne Diacre.
An interesting statistic which is worthy of mention in that respect is that in the period from 2001 to 2017, 12 of the 13 winning coaches in the major women’s national team competitions ─ the FIFA Women’s World Cup, UEFA Women’s EURO and the Olympic women’s football tournament ─ were female. This strengthens arguments in favour of appointing women as coaches, and will hopefully serve to motivate female players and coaches to gain an education and coach a team ─ and perhaps go on to achieve major success.
“I think it’s starting to happen…we need to be patient, but women’s involvement is already a reality,” says Diacre. “I think [UEFA’s programme] is a great initiative.”
The last word goes to Irene Fuhrmann – the first woman in Austria with the UEFA pro licence, thanks to a scholarship given to her by UEFA: “The UEFA Coach Development Project for Women is incredibly important in encouraging more women to take up coaching as a career.” UEFA holds firm hopes that this ambitious vision will soon be bearing impressive fruit.
Women interested in becoming coaches and learning about UEFA-backed courses can contact their national association or UEFA on the following email address: WomenCoaches@uefa.ch
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