The coaches of the national teams that took part in the UEFA Women’s EURO gathered at St George’s Park for the UEFA Women’s National Team Coaches’ Conference last week.
The coaches were joined by technical directors and women’s football officials from UEFA’s 55 member associations, as well as other distinguished guests and experts, to examine the technical, tactical and coaching evolution of the women’s game.
The conference kicked off with general observations, with the chair of the English Football Association’s women’s board, Sue Hough, describing EURO Women’s 2022 as “a month to remember.”
Nadine Kessler, UEFA’s managing director of women’s football, addressed the conference by outlining a number of key factors in the tournament’s success.
The conference moved onto its core theme – technical topics – highlighted by the unveiling of the Women’s EURO technical report at the opening of the event. The report details the key tactical and technical developments observed at a tournament that set new benchmarks for the women’s game in terms of tactical intelligence, technical skills, fitness levels and coaching acumen. You can read the report here.
A highlight of the event featured a presentation by England coach Sarina Wiegman on the variety of methods that combined to create a team spirit and environment that would take the Lionesses to their historic EURO title.
Wiegman explained her targets when she started her work as England coach in September 2020. “My challenge was to bring people together, to create an environment with the staff, and to see if I could create a team of players that could perform at the highest level as well.
“The story behind football is team development – how you create the team, how you work together. I think when the communication is good, on- and off-pitch, then you get a better collaboration, and I think you get better results.
“We asked [initial] questions – what brought us this far? And what do we need to get better? What made England so good that the team made three semi-finals in a row in the final tournaments, and what prevented the team from going to the next stage? How can we take the next step to bring our game to the next level?”
Wiegman stressed the importance of the playing squad and staff working as one committed entity with a common goal. “We needed a structure,” she said. “What we did, as a staff, was to create lots of clarity about how we wanted to work off the pitch and on it.”
“When you go into a tournament, your collaboration is really intense,” Wiegman continued. “We wanted everyone to be committed and attached to what we were doing. We wanted to use all the qualities of the players, as well as all the expertise of the staff.”
Honesty and transparency were crucial in the overall approach: “When you talk to each other, you get understanding and acceptance. We wanted a high-demanding environment, then you need constructive feedback, and you have to be honest. I wanted the highest-level people around me, and people that think critically and give me feedback.”
Wiegman and her staff worked hard to instil a winning belief in the team in the run-up to the EURO. “In April, we started to talk about winning behaviour, so we asked the players: what do we need to win? Who do we want to be? Why are we here? And how can we win? That’s what we were working on all the time.”
Eventually, all of these various elements gelled together as England grew and flourished into a unit that prospered and eventually emerged triumphant. “[There are] lots of leaders in this team,” said Wiegman. “I had to get to know the different [personalities]. We had leaders that were visible, but we also had a lot of leaders that weren’t visible but had a major role in the team. So [we ended up having] a very mature group of players really desperately wanting to win.
“I’m really, really proud of them, and proud of the staff too,” Wiegman concluded. “Our dream was winning the EURO, our goal was to perform at the highest level, under the highest pressure. And we wanted to inspire the nation… I think we did.”
The conference also featured a coaches' forum featuring Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, who led Germany to the runners-up spot in England, as well as quarter-finalist coaches Irene Fuhrmann (Austria) and Ives Serneels (Belgium). They examined various technical and general aspects of the EURO.
The conference, run by UEFA's technical development department, is considered as an important post-Women’s EURO milestone that brought together key technicians in the women’s game.