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Cork's Niall O'Regan is transforming how the FAI educates its players and coaches. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
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Cork's Niall O'Regan is transforming how the FAI educates its players and coaches. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
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Cork native has crucial role in the FAI's new coaching strategy

WITH many new changes to come in the FAI, Cork man Niall O’Regan, head of Coach Education, will be a key figure in the creation of a High Performance Strategy that he and Ruud Dokter have been working on for the past 24 months.

The FAI are currently going through a formal review in terms of their structures and this will see the organisation going through one of the biggest changes in the face of Irish football.

For the Bandon man, who continues to climb that ladder in the association, he is excited about the new plans.

“For us in coach education, it is a very exciting time as UEFA have updated the UEFA Coaching Convention and this will see us implementing the new convention from 2021, with a number of specific changes, which will see the implementation of additional specialist courses such as the UEFA Elite Youth B Licence which will be used to focus on Elite Players U13-U15, the UEFA Goalkeeping B Licence which will be an additional specialist course in goalkeeping,” said O’Regan.

“We also will be implementing an elite course for Grassroots coaches which will be the UEFA Leaders Award and this will allow coaches working within Grassroots environment to complete a UEFA certified course. 

"Also we will be introducing our calendar events for coaching conferences formally onto the pathway with five conference events annually from 2021 focusing on Football Fitness, Female Game, Goalkeeping, FAI Staff Development and the National Coaching Conference in November in IT Carlow. The new pathway will be released in July and we have put a lot of work into this so it will be great to see it come to life.

“Specifically for the coach education and high performance department it is also a very exciting time as Ruud has been working hard over past 24 months on the creation of a High-Performance Strategy from 2021-2025. 

"This will be launched in coming weeks and having worked closely with Ruud on this it will be fabulous to see it come to fruition.” 

The father of two moved into his new role as Head of Education back in January, and although none of us could have predicted the disruptions Covid had, O’Regan adjusted well in his role and implemented some really great webinars throughout that period.

“In January I moved from Coach Education Manager to the Head of Coach Education. The role sees me lead the coach education department under the guidance of the High Performance Director Ruud Dokter. 

"It allows me working closely with Ruud and it’s great to be able to work closely with him and benefit from his knowledge, experience and networks within the game.

"It is great for Irish football to have Ruud being a member of the Jira Panel which is the UEFA Panel which is dedicated to developing coach education throughout European Football which ensures we are at the forefront of any changes within the UEFA coaching convention and allows us to be ahead of the game in terms of ensuring we are delivering and developing best practice in terms of our coach education.

“One of the priorities for us is to proactively plan ahead and work towards ensuring we are prepared for all eventualities in terms of planning courses, but Covid was just an outlier and something I don’t think any of us was expecting and or prepared for.

"It really took some immediate adaptation in terms of our continued engagement with our coaches and we spent the first few weeks just brainstorming the best ways in which to engage our coaches.

"We are very lucky to have such a supportive communications department, especially Gareth Maher who has helped us in all our communications online through the Webinars, Coach Education Newsletter, interviews and special edition pieces. 

"So far we have had the following webinars which have been a huge success, Grassroots, Paul Osam, Tom Mohan, Tom O'Connor, Colin O'Brien, Jim Crawford, Jason Donohoe, Female Coaching, Performance Analysis, Session Planning, Football Fitness. Upcoming webinars include Goalkeeping, Ruud Dokter, Coach Education Pathway 2021-2025, Football For All and Futsal.

“We also plan to continue delivering the webinars into the future with plans for 2021 to introduce a formal coach education podcast which is something we are very excited about. We also launched a coach education newsletter and coaches can register for this where they receive free content on all aspects of the game."

The link to register is: https://mailchi.mp/fai.ie/7o3p5aorqo.

One of O’Regan’s latest events with the FAI was getting the opportunity to present his work to the Saudia Arabian Football Federation.

“It was a great opportunity for me to present to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation with Frank Ludolph the UEFA Head of Football Education Services. The webinar had over 800 coaches registered through the Saudi Arabian FA and it was great to work with Frank on the delivery of the presentation which focused on frank introducing the UEFA 2020 Coaching Convention and the amendments to the convention which have been released this month. 

"I then followed Frank to demonstrate how we in the FAI implement the UEFA Coaching Convention focusing on creating a Learner Centred environment, through Reality Based Learning and creating an ethos of lifelong learning.

“For me, I am really enjoying my role, it is giving me the opportunity to hone my skills as a coach while helping and working with other coaches and learning together in terms of a lifelong learning experience. 

"The role has seen me working with some of Irish Football greatest ever players and coaches. Working with Ruud Dokter has been one of the best experiences for me in my career so far as he has a phenomenal understanding of the game, his knowledge and experience is invaluable to Irish football and for me personally it is great to be able to work closely with Ruud and all the staff within the department.”