Niall O'Regan: Coach education in soccer is on an upward curve

'In 2021 the FAI launched a Learning Platform provided by a Galway-based company Avenir Sports'
Niall O'Regan: Coach education in soccer is on an upward curve

Former Cork City interim head coach John Cotter has his UEFA Pro Licence. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

ONLINE learning has exploded during these crazy Covid times and thankfully there have been many positives from this method.

One organisation that has benefited because of this is the FAI and recently I caught up with Head of Coach Education Niall O’Regan and he was excited with how they adapted through these difficult times.

“Coach education has really gone from strength to strength even during these difficult times of Covid-19,” said O’Regan. “The department has had to adapt and in doing so it has been able to really embrace technology and take a lot of positives from the negatives that covid-19 has brought.

“In 2021 we launched a Learning Platform provided by a Galway-based company Avenir Sports. Avenir have a long connection to the FAI providing Performance Analysis support to the International Teams and working closely with coach education through HUDL and more recently the introduction of having a modular approach to Continuous Professional Development through Performance Analysis modules.

“Having a company that knows what we are about and what we want to achieve really helps and they have been excellent in bringing to life a learning platform that is simply a one-stop-shop for coaches at every level of the game. The system provides coaches with access to formal learning channels, where courses can be completed, assignments for courses completed and all things in relation to current and previous courses are kept.

“There are informal learning channels which allow coaches to browse through a Netflix style channel system with hours of content from publications, sessions plans, videos of coaching practices, best practice UEFA Videos, access to the excellent icoachkids modules and all of the FAI coaching conferences, with weekly video content added to ensure to engage coaches on a regular basis.

“The system also has Sport Session Planning software built-in as well as having direct access to vouches personalised HUDL performance analysis accounts where relevant.

“As part of the move from an hour system to a credit system in CPD, coaches now can complete one free credit of CPD towards the mandatory 15 credits they need to complete every three years to ensure the validity of their respective UEFA Qualifications. This allows coaches to accumulate up to 36 credits of CPD every three years for free through the system.

“The January CPD is based around an opposition analysis of the Republic of Ireland men v Portugal game and some of the content provided so far from coaches has been excellent.

“The move to online learning is not just something we are going to have done, it is something we are going to utilise more and more as we move away from the traditional approach to teaching and learning, to a more modern approach. That’s through a blended style, ensuring we use technology where we can while still having the face-to-face experience for coaches to have a more holistic learning experience.”

FAI Coach Education manager Niall O'Regan during the FAI Coach Education Pathway 2017-2020 launch. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
FAI Coach Education manager Niall O'Regan during the FAI Coach Education Pathway 2017-2020 launch. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

These moves have seen the FAI Coach Education Department being acknowledged on a global stage, with O’Regan presenting to all UEFA countries in 2021 as part of UEFA best Practice Webinar series, first on the coaching pathway 2021-2025 being implemented in Ireland and secondly on their approaches to Football Fitness Modules and the use of the Learning Platform to achieve this.

Following this, O’Regan went on to present to all of the countries in Concacaf on behalf of UEFA explaining how the FAI implement UEFA Coaching Convention. The FAI coach education department also hosted a UEFA Share focusing on Football Fitness with six countries within UEFA sending delegates to visit the FAI and learn from their current approaches, with delegates from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Northern Ireland and Ukraine.

PROGRESS

O’Regan is thrilled with the progress made.

“The achievements made by the team during Covid and in 2021 have been magnificent, to be the first country sanctioned by UEFA to deliver the newly formed UEFA C Diploma for Grassroots coaches really showed where we are in terms of our standing within UEFA and coach education.

“This was further expressed by being invited to present to the UEFA and Concacaf countries and to be acknowledged as best practice on these stages really is so rewarding and something we as a team are very proud of. 2021 saw us launch the Learning Platform which will become the backbone of all we do in coach education moving forward.

“Annually we engage with over 10,000 coaches completing education with us and it has been great to see our work acknowledged in a football capacity but also academically, with publications in the International Sport Coaching Journal in June last year.

“The highlight for me as always was seeing the number of coaches completing courses graduating at the higher end and seeing the previous UEFA Pro Licence group finally get the chance to graduate and having this group graduate with the likes of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, John Andrews, Keith Andrews, Jim Brennan, John Cotter, Neale Fenn, Paul Hegarty, Paddy McCarthy, Kevin Maher, Ger O’Brien, William O’Connor, Vinny Perth, Andy Reid, Stephen Rice, Dave Rogers, Szilard Suto, Srdjan Tufegdzic was really rewarding for them and us as we grew the number of coaches in Ireland to 96 who have completed the UEFA Pro Diploma.

“2021 saw another cohort of our UEFA Women’s-only courses which saw coaches completing the UEFA B and UEFA Youth B Diplomas and in 2022 we plan to deliver women’s-only courses at UEFA C, UEFA B and UEFA Youth B and coaches interested in expressing an interest in doing the courses they can email niall.oregan@fai.ie.”

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