This was the main reason behind the FIFA Coaching Development Department organising a seminar in Montreal on the FIFA Coach Educators Development Pathway, in conjunction with the Canadian football federation Canada Soccer.
Run by Branimir Ujevic, FIFA Head of Coaching and Player Development, and with the support of FIFA Technical Director Steven Martens, 26 participants (19 coaches’ educators and seven developers of coaches’ educators, all from Canada) were able to make the most of the experts’ advice to improve both their skillsets and, in the long term, the quality of Canadian coaches and the players they are responsible for.
Improve coaches, bring the players on
"The main aim is to improve the training of our coaches. We want to have a world-class system and for that, you need to have world-class people," said Dave Nutt, Development Operations Manager at Canada Soccer.
"To be able to train our own people so that they can become world-class, we need to call on experts. FIFA provides the expertise and the structure so that we can help our coach educators and coach educator developers to improve, and in turn they will help to improve our coaches, who ultimately will have an impact on the players."
Regardless of their experience levels, the participants in the workshop were aware of the fact that the learning process is a never-ending one, and all of them returned home to their native provinces and training centres with something new in their luggage, thanks in no small part to the support of the FIFA experts.
"After all these years as an educator of coaches here in Canada, and with FIFA’s help, the aim for me is to expand my knowledge, my skills and the attitude we have towards the person or persons we are going to be working with, to be able to share and exchange with other coaches’ educators in the development process for training coaches," explained Valerio Gazzola, a developer of coaches at the Canadian federation.
Attitude, skillset, knowledge
Gazzola is 58 years old and, having spent a number of decades on the sidelines as a coach, believes that the success of a development programme can be summarised in three words: "Attitude, skillset and knowledge. If you have the knowledge but not the attitude or the skillset, it won’t bear fruit," he said.
"If you have the skillset but not the knowledge, or if you don’t have the attitude, that becomes a problem. The three are inextricably linked – if you keep it simple and understand just how important all three are in terms of development – on a coaching, a personal and a general player development level – everyone to a greater or lesser extent will be able to help other coaches in our role as educators.
"As educators of coaches, we need to understand the needs of our client base and the needs of coaches to better prepare them to meet the needs of the players."
While the quality of coaches in Canada has certainly proved its worth over the years, with the reward for that being the men’s team qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time since 1986 and the women’s team making history by winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Jim Loughlin, who is Manager of Coach Education at Canada Soccer, knows full well that training like the FIFA-run workshop in Montreal will only make the future even brighter for the educators.
"The people that we have and who are involved want to be challenged, and the process and the programme have challenged them,” he said. “It has inspired and motivated them to want to do more.”
An evolving process
"It reinforces the importance of the training of coaches around the world, and also demonstrates how critical it is to work with the coaches’ educators and help them to improve. What’s great about this programme and the people who work on it is that they’re really positive and want to do all they can to help us recognise where we’re doing things well, and give us advice on what we could be doing even better."
Doing even better is one of the personal goals of Connie Marshall, who took part in the seminar. "My aim is to learn as much as possible, to grow as a developer of coaches’ educators and to better myself. The more I learn, the more I progress in my pathway as a coach and the better placed I am to support other coaches’ educators in Canada," said the educator from Ontario, well aware of the fact that the programme is just the first step along an almost infinite pathway.
"It’s just a stage but it’s a very precious one in my learning pathway,” she said. “You never stop learning. It’s an evolving process that lasts your whole life."