The PFA Charity provides a pathway to coaching for players past and present who are interested in developing their knowledge of football from a different perspective. Our Coaching department runs Level 2 coaching courses for every professional football player in the country. They also run courses for UEFA A and B Licences to help those players who want to learn more. Former Oldham Athletic left-back Andy Barlow has worked as a coach educator at the PFA for 20 years, so we caught up with Andy to find out more about what gaining your UEFA B Coaching Licence can mean for players.
Andy, what’s the most important thing to understand about coaching?
The first thing we always do is get people to sit down and understand what their values are, and then think about what their philosophy might be. You should be authentic and not try to imitate anybody else. You are who you are, and you should reflect that in your beliefs, standards and how you behave in front of your players. I think that’s the first thing people have to learn, and then use that to work out how they will develop practices and players.
What is the benefit of gaining the UEFA B licence?
For the professional game, Level 2 is an entry qualification, and the UEFA B is the minimum requirement for getting a job in an academy or upwards. It also gives candidates the option of obtaining the UEFA A licence, which opens up bigger opportunities. The Level 2 course will provide them with an insight into what coaching is about, but the UEFA B is what gets them to work out how to do things at a professional level.
What does the course itself entail?
The course starts with 10 contact days of training, followed up with support days where we will observe a minimum of 3 sessions. That might increase if the candidate needs more help and we will keep working with them until they get it and we can sign them off. There's also a project of work they have to complete which investigates all of the theoretical work that's delivered on the course. We ask them to look at how they analyse matches, write coaching programmes, link them with sports science, cognitive thinking and psychology. Candidates must then work on putting a practice together covering all of these aspects. The fastest people can move through the course in around 9 or 10 months, but the average is somewhere between 14 -18 months.
Do footballers have an advantage if they move into coaching?
I don’t think there’s any advantage at all, because coaching is so different from playing. However, if they’re coaching teams through competitions they’ve participated in as players, they can use their own experience to help prepare the team - especially if it’s a new experience for them. That doesn’t make you a better coach necessarily, but it can make it easier to relate to your players. As a coach, it’s not just about technical and tactical knowledge; it’s also your personal skills and developing relationships with people.
What’s the best advice you would give to a player who might be thinking about a career in coaching?
Coaching isn’t for everybody, but for those who want to do it, you need to approach it sooner rather than later. Players know the game so well, but they have to understand all the practical things about learning, and what goes on behind the scenes. They then need to look at how to put that together to make it work in a practical environment, so in reality, it’s an entirely different experience. People ask is coaching an art or a science? Ultimately coaching is an agreement by a collective group of people to all work together on the same pathway for the same common goal, and somebody has to steer that – that’s the coach.
If you are a current or former player, you can find out more about the coaching services the PFA Charity provides: click here.