Success of European Coaches Convention key for growth of the game

Coaches are not born, they are made.

While there is no doubt that there is certain innate personality traits that draw people to the profession, no coach enters it fully formed. It is a job that requires constant growth, the ability to shift the framework of your thinking as your sport and the world around you changes. The learning process never stops and those who believe they’ve found all the answers quickly find themselves stalled out or pushed aside. Whether it is scheme or connecting with athletes, you must adapt constantly.

For many years, that was the constant battle for American football coaches in Europe. As the game grew on the continent, those striving to become better coaches and deliver a better product for their athletes were on their own in search of tools and resources. Books and videos were once hard to come by, but European coaches somehow always found a way to lean on — and learn from — each other.

Now with the rise of the internet, those resources have become just a click away, but formal coaching education in Europe has lagged behind. While American coaches from the Pop Warner level all the way through to college might fill their offseason with an array of coaching clinics, soaking up knowledge from the very best in the field, those across the Atlantic could only dream or pull from the family vacation fund in pursuit of their goals.

In recent years, that has begun to change. Martin Hanselmann’s Bavarian Coaches Convention has offered at least one annual chance for coach education for those in Germany and the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased number of online clinics offered virtually over the past two years. On Saturday, the European Coaches Convention in Berlin will kick off as the next step in the right direction.

The inaugural two-day conference will offer 200 coaches a chance to learn and network in a way that has rarely been available to them. In total, participants will take part in 8 instructional sessions from top European coaches in topics ranging from the fundamentals of man-to-man coverage to common injury prevention, along with a pair of master classes delivered by NFL coaching legend Wade Phillips. The knowledge imparted in each session will be invaluable, but the networking opportunities that come from spending 48 hours talking to the best coaching minds in Europe in between instructional times could be worth even more.

For founders Bart Iaccarino and Jesus Sanchez, this is just the latest project intended to take American football in Europe to the next level. For years, their Europe Warriors program has provided opportunities for international competition to young players, helping support the growing number of Europeans pursuing their football dreams overseas. At the head of the ELF’s Barcelona Dragons, they’ve been at the forefront of the new league’s bold venture to professionalize the sport on the continent. Those aspects of the sport have grown leaps and bounds, coaching development has not and both recognize that has to change.

While Europeans are making their mark as players at the high school, college, and professional level in North America, few coaches have made the jump overseas, with Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde the notable exception. Indeed, players cross the Atlantic in search of not just more exposure, but often better coaching as well. With so many passionate and bright young minds entering the sport, the addition of accessible homegrown clinics like the EUCC could change all that.

This year’s event in Berlin is a test case, one rapidly assembled on short notice, but it’s success could not be more meaningful to the European football community. An annual event, hosted in different cities each year, could make high level coaching education the norm at all levels across Europe. That’s a big ask for the organizers, but they appear up to the challenge.

They better be, because European coaches are waiting to be made into the best versions of themselves.

For more information on the European Coaches Convention click here.

You can also check out the ECC Facebook page.

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.