Coach Education in Europe

One of the key elements of players’ success is the quality of coaching. This is also one of the reasons why European players are dominating the ATP, WTA as well as ITF junior rankings.

At present 45 out of the 50 European nations are running their own coach education programmes in their respective countries. Twenty three countries have developed independent Coaches’ education programmes, whilst eleven have their own programmes based on the ITF syllabi and ten are using the courses organized by the ITF for educating coaches.

Contemporary tennis coaches are required to fulfill a variety of roles that may include educator, guide, sport psychologist and business manager. 

Coaching is in its most dynamic era in history. Coaches work with increasingly diverse populations and face heightening demands from their athletes, their athletes’ parents, administrators and fans. Coaches are required to fulfill a variety of roles that may include educator, guide, sport psychologist and business manager.

Coaches play a central role in promoting participation in sport and enhancing the performance of athletes. In accordance with internationally-recognised and domestic sporting codes, coaches guide the participation of children, players and athletes. In addition to their core role, coaches contribute to the development of athletes as people; contribute to society by promoting activity and health and generating economic activity through employment, education, purchase of equipment, use of facilities and attendance at events.

In this context, coaches have a responsibility to improve and expand their own capabilities on an ongoing basis to fully meet the needs of the athletes and the social environment they serve. The organisations that employ them have a responsibility to ensure that coaches have sufficient educational footing, philosophical orientation and resources to fulfill the duties expected of them.

To deliver an effective and sustained programme that meets athletes’ needs, coaches are responsible for developing their capabilities in a range of areas. Coaching capability refers to the ability of a coach to operate effectively in his or her chosen domains and roles. Coaching capability involves competency—demonstrated capability in a given context—and underpinning knowledge. It is shaped by the values of the coach. These values are reflected in everything coaches do; they include identity, mind-set, philosophy and ethical perspective. In performing their primary functions, coaches carry out a range of tasks that require demonstration of a variety of competences.

Competency-based education is the generally-accepted modern approach and this also applies to the area of coaches’ education. Identified benefits of competency-based education are:

  • Education reflects the job demands
  • The competencies are defined by coaches activities and tasks
  • The related coaching skills, knowledge and personal attributes are covered by curriculum

There have been several wider developments within vocational education and training in the European Union that have had significant implications for the way in which coaches are educated and their competence and qualifications recognised. These include the Lisbon, Bologna and Copenhagen processes, which have begun to chart new directions for vocational education and higher education in light of the emerging social and economic challenges facing the European Union. These processes have also initiated a proposed European Qualification Framework (EQF) and a European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET).

The initial structure for the recognition of coaching qualifications at a European level was first developed in 1999. The European Coaching Council, a sub-committee of the European Network of Sports Science, Education and Employment (ENSSEE) in cooperation with the International Sport Federations, conducted the Review of this document between 2005 and 2007.

Based on the ‘Review of the 5-levels structure for qualification and recognition of coaching education structure’, the International Council for Coaches’ Education (ICCE) and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations prepared ‘International Sport Coaching Framework’ which contains:

  • Coaching Framework Foundations
  • Coaching in Context
  • Coaching Recipients and Impact
  • Coaching Roles
  • Coaching Competence
  • Coach Education and Development
  • Coach Certification and Recognition
  • Coaching Framework Benefits

Parallel to and in alignment with the work mentioned above, in 2005 (Cologne, Germany) Tennis Europe organized the first Specific Theme Conference related to coaches’ education. This was followed by Coaches’ Education Conferences in 2011 (Vilamoura, Portugal) and 2013 (Valencia, Spain).

In addition, in 2007 the ITF established a working group which developed the ITF Recognition of national coaches’ education systems, which at present is divided into Gold, Silver and Bronze levels of official recognition.

The results of the above-mentioned conferences and the ITF working group include several documents, which have defined the activities and tasks of the coaches of beginner-intermediate, advanced and high performance players.

The majority of coaches in Europe are working in clubs or tennis schools with beginner and intermediate players. According to the ITF definition, ‘the coach of beginner - intermediate tennis players is defined as a coach who is able to effectively and safely coach players of this level of play on his own and may work under supervision reporting to more qualified coaches and, if needed, supervise assistant coaches’.

Taking into account the above, the 2013 Conference in Valencia provided the scene for in-depth discussions of the competencies, performance criteria and descriptions of performance standards for the coach of beginner-intermediate players.