A Coaching Pinnacle

The FA UEFA Pro-Licence Mid-season Masterclass and refresher course

The UEFA Pro-Licence is the highly coveted finish line on The FA coaching pathway. Mandatory for elite managers and coaches with ambitions of competing in Premier League
and European competition, the qualification is the highest achievable in the game and an industry-recognised seal of approval for competency and preparation. The demands are high, both for access and in content – this season’s intake was capped at 21.

All candidates must have experience in the professional game (or women’s equivalent) at senior level as a player/coach, assistant manager or manager. Coaching proficiency is
another requirement, with the UEFA A Licence another prerequisite.

More after the break

Preston North End manager Graham Westley, Middlesbrough assistant manager Mark Venus and QPR youth development coach Marc Bircham were part of last season’s intake and were afforded insight from an esteemed list of presenters including former England Manager Fabio Capello, then-Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers and Manchester United first-team coach Rene Meulensteen at the January 2012 mid-season Masterclass event at Wokefield Park, Berkshire.

“It’s a wonderful football gathering; an exchange of ideas and a part of our continued development as coaches and people,” explained Rodgers. “I’ve always liked to exchange and share ideas and listen to different people from different walks of life and different sports, so it has been fantastic.” The Northern Irishman is himself a Pro-Licence graduate and testimony to the course quality.

Variety was very much the theme for the day. Experts from outside the football sphere provided comparison and opportunities to share ideas. For instance, Brian McDermott [Head Coach at Leeds Rhinos Rugby League Club] and Peter Moores [Head Coach at Lancashire Cricket Club] both gave their alternative insights. Communication skills, media
training and leadership also featured.

We get experts in their field to come in to talk about how they manage the good times and the bad times – adversity and leadership – and to see it is no different from what we deal with in football,” explained John Peacock, FA UEFA Pro-licence course director, who presented an analysis of the historical and cultural factors contributing to Spain
and Barcelona’s recent success.

“We ask current managers who have been through the Pro-Licence to feedback in terms of where the game is going and what the needs are” added Peacock. With ever-changing ownership structures, financial regulations and transfer arrangements contributing to an increasingly complex managerial landscape, the challenge is a formidable one for those
more accustomed to the penalty box than the directors’ box. To prepare for these demands, the everyday language of the technical area is sometimes substituted for the lexicon of boardrooms and balance sheets.

“It covers areas that you never considered as a player, so you develop a mindset where you’re thinking outside the box,” explained Darren Moore, currently development coach at West Bromwich Albion. “The course has been valuable in gaining experience and widening your thoughts and it helps you if you are ever to become a coach or manager of a football club”.

Moore and other managerial hopefuls were given the perfect sounding board by MK
Dons’ flamboyant chairman, Pete Winkleman, who provided an insight into the characteristics he seeks in potential recruits, stressing the importance of contributing to the club as a whole.

“There are valuable lessons here for young coaches and managers who are aspiring to do well in the game: the level you’ve got to be at, the control, self discipline and the self-belief you need if you’re going to manage a football club,” added Moore.

Management experience wasn’t lacking amongst the Pro-Licence alumni returning
to complete the mandatory 15 hours of continuous professional development required every three years to maintain the qualification. Peter Reid, Lawrie Sanchez, Glenn Roeder, Phil Brown and Steve Cotterill were some of the names who joined the current students in
Berkshire. The amalgamation of groups is designed to fuel rich debate and discussion.

“There are some lads who are still playing and there are others who have managed at international level, and they’re all so open in their communications with each other. There’s a real sense that we’re here to learn and to share our experiences and to make each other stronger. That’s the football family for you,” explained Preston North End manager Westley.
For current students, face-to-face course content is supplemented throughout the
season with conference calls and a study visit report covering a topic arising from the course.

Previous graduates have enjoyed diverse experiences including visits to the Red Arrows, Google and the Oxford University boat crew. The varied design of the course is not through choice, but necessity. In an ultra-competitive industry where few are afforded time, methods must remain current and ideas fresh. FA Learning consultant, Alistair Smith, who contributed to the course design, stressed the importance of a challenging and
varied programme.

“What we’re trying to do is challenge people’s thinking; the range of speakers that John Peacock and Dick Bate [FA Elite Coaching Manager] have provided have done just that. They’ve taken people out of their comfort zones a little bit and made them think about some fundamental issues. The level of detail and the openness and honesty with which each of the presenters has approached the task has been incredible.”

The 2013 FA UEFA Pro-Licence Mid-season Masterclass and refresher course will be held in January. To read more about The FA’s UEFA Pro-Licence visit www.TheFA.com and The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club website www.TheFA.com/falcc.

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