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John McIlroy
91
Children Young People

What Makes a Good Football Academy Coach?

Clubs have differing opinions on the role of ex-players in coaching

I recently came across a fascinating report into some of the top football academies across Europe.

The ECA Study on Youth Academies looks at the main trends across these academies focusing on:

  • vision and objectives
  • organisation
  • education and scouting
  • infrastructure
  • technical content and coaching
  • finance and productivity.

Depending on your own interests, you're likely to focus on different parts of the report, but I was most interested in the coaching aspects and in particular the required characteristics of a coach in the different academies.

Required characteristics

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of coaching is whether a high level sporting background is valuable for coaching.

I recently wrote a blog about this and suggested that coaches with representative-level playing experience were more likely to commit to long term coaching.

However, as several people pointed out, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will make good coaches!

In the report I noticed that different clubs seemed to have a different opinion on the role of ex-players in coaching.

Six of the ten explicitly stated that one of the required characteristics for academy coaches was to be an ex-player, however Barcelona, Dynamo Zagreb and Bayern Munich (to some extent) did not feel the need to employ ex-players as coaches. You can see the full breakdown at the end of this blog.

I’m sure this is linked to the broader philosophy within each club but it is interesting to see that, like most things in coaching, no one agrees on the best way forward!

Required characteristics of a coach by academy

Ajax: Ex-player with lots of experience at high level (except for under 10s).

Arsenal: Ex-player with significant experience at high level.

Barcelona: Coaches are usually very young and do not necessarily have past experience at high levels.

Bayern Munich: In the younger age group (u8-u12) mostly sport students and adults with pedagogical background and at least UEFA B licence; from U-13 mostly ex-players or coaches with significant youth experience and all UEFA Pro-Level-Licence.

Inter Milan: Quality, receive specific information from the top and have to respect it.

Levadia Tallin: Mainly ex-players, also young coaches.

Dynamo Zagreb: High level of intelligence, stable personality, ability to transfer knowledge, feeling for the game, not necessarily a former top player.

Lens: A former Lens player with a minimum of coaching experience.

Standard Liege: The ideal coach is an ex-football player with a lot of experience at a high level but he must be qualified and he must be the holder of a diploma.

Sporting Portugal: Ex-players at several levels with academic background.

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John McIlroy