The UEFA Pro Licence course, held for the first time at St. George’s Park last week, aims to prepare coaches and managers for the rigours of leadership at the top level of the professional game.
Notoriously high-pressured and competitive, the top-level management environment is difficult to replicate.
Consequently, Alistair Smith, The FA’s designated learning consultant, is aware of the need to move the candidates out of their comfort zone.
He said: “We’ve taken the sort things that a top coach or manager working in the professional game would have to exhibit on a daily basis and we’ve built the programme around it.
“We’ve been doing work with Howard Wilkinson from the League Managers’ Association on leadership, we’ve been doing work on persuading people to do things they don’t want to do and also a look at the technical changes and The Future Game.”
The FA’s UEFA Pro Licence course has been running for over ten years and Smith is excited by the changes:
Smith added: “We try our very hardest to take it away from their experiences of classrooms and to make it much more like a think tank or a boot room where you frame the challenge and the candidates come up with the solutions. Then you make sense of those solutions for them.
“One of the things said about great learners was great learners see connections, they make patterns. It is not just about knowing stuff, it is about knowing how it connects with individual professional needs and we drive it back to that all the time.”
One way in which Smith creates a dynamic learning environment is encouraging coaches to collaborate to share and discuss their varied experiences. With Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Ince and Chris Powell all attending the course experience is plentiful.
“The challenge for any presenter or facilitator is to design challenges or activities that pull out that experience. But you have to give it a frame otherwise it is a talking shop or a history lesson.
“The beauty of the new Pro Licence approach is that the competencies which the course is based around, are structured in such a way that it provides a frame. One of the competencies is about ‘leading winning teams in the modern game’.
“Now some people have played, like Ryan Giggs who has played over 600 league games, but [he] has yet to lead a team in the modern game.
“So he is sitting alongside people who have done that. We structure the experience so the people with experience can sit alongside people who have undoubted potential but need access to that experience.”
A full video interview with Alistair Smith outlining the demands and design of the UEFA Pro Licence course will be available via TheFA.com/SGP this week
Read the thoughts of Pro Licence candidate, Ryan Giggs, here.