On the last day of January 2020, an inaugural meeting for Regional Coach Training (REACT) project, took place in Latvia.
REACT project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and its purpose is to support the existing training and educational system with the creation of the coach network in the Baltic Region.
Baltic Football School (BFS) will act as the main coordinator of the educational innovation platform with FC Elva, Valmiera Glass VIA/Valmiera FC and Siauliai FC acting as regional partners and project ambassadors whilst an important role will be performed by coach education department of Latvian Football Federation (LFF) who will support the initiative in fulfilling the role of key project expert.
Further updates on the project will be presented in the near future both on BFS and its partner social media channels as well as official organisation websites.
Following from the inaugural meeting of the project which took place on the January 2020, a process was set in motion to gather information and assess the current situation in the Baltic Region about the coaching development opportunities. This was facilitated by designing questionnaires which were distributed amongst each project partners` networks to cover broader segment thus obtaining a more objective insight.
In June, a meeting was organised in Valmiera, Latvia to assess the responses gathered from the designed questionnaires. A clear pain point emerged which showcased that coaches in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are keen to learn more and take their professional education further but given the lack of accessibility to such opportunities it was not possible which consequently resulted in decreased satisfaction level with the existing situation.
Such insights cemented the project partner belief that a centralised coaching network is required in order to gather the information systematically, allow it to be distributed in a more effective manner and cultivate the conversation and exchange of best practices between the coaches and functionaries. This topic led to multiple discussions at a July meeting in Elva, Estonia which fostered conversations about potential financial structure, exchange of information on the platform and the overall structure of the coaching network.
In July, considering the lessons learned from COVID-19 pandemic, a meeting was held in Liepaja, Latvia, where project partners unanimously agreed that in the light of minimised physical contact with fellow human beings, the gaps surrounding the key project topic was showcased explicitly thus accelerating the urge and need to create a platform which can act as an effective tool to communicate, learn and support the professional development of industry professionals around the Baltic States. Further on, partners exchanged views on content creation and its frequency, engagement between the users and content creators, more sophisticated and sustainable financial model and overall functionality of the platform.
Currently, the work towards providing a solution to the aforementioned problem is underway and various versions and functions of the platform are being tested in order to ensure that it can be presented to a wider audience. More updates to follow soon.
“Regional Coach Training” (REACT) is a project that is led by Baltic Football School and implemented together with its partners FC Elva (Estonia), Siauliai FA (Lithuania) and Valmiera Glass VIA/Valmiera FC (Latvia).
In late July 2020, project partners met in Liepaja, Latvia where discussions were held around functionality of potential coaching network platform with the key idea being to ensure effective remote communication and education opportunities. Since then, the work has taken place to develop a platform which not only covers the needs of its potential users but also satisfies its developers by being financially self-sustainable and valuable to all involved parties.
A meeting was organised in the first week of September by FC Elva in Estonia where lead partner Baltic Football School presented the initial version of electronic platform that facilitates educational and training opportunities for Baltic Region coaches. Each of the regional partners contributed by providing their opinion on how this tool could be integrated in their respective countries considering the needs and peculiarities relevant to their coach segment.
From these discussions an idea emerged to update the e-platform to encourage communication, exchange of knowledge and best practice examples between coaches to ensure intra-regional networking opportunities.
The received feedback and ideas were integrated into the platform and updated version of coaching network was presented a week later in a meeting organised by FC Valmiera in Latvia. There the last minor tweaks to ensure the best possible integration into each country were discussed with the aim being to capture the attention of maximum number of individuals through e-platform`s easy of use and practicality in the day-to-day development of coaches.
The aforementioned changes were considered and, in the weeks, leading up to the scheduled meeting organised by Siauliai FA on the fourth week of September, were integrated into the e-platform. However, due to the circumstances in Baltic Region regarding COVID-19, this project meeting could not take place and therefore had to be cancelled.
As it stands, an official request has been made to European Union to pause the implementation of the project due to the inability to safely host and attend the scheduled meetings given the restrictions set by each of the project partner countries. In the meantime, an active work continues on the backend of the coaching platform and further updates will follow soon.
It has been more than 6 months since the project was put on hold due to the Covid-19 restrictions but finally we are glad to say the project has resumed and some integral meetings have already taken place.
On the last days of May we organised two meetings in Siauliai, Lithuania. The first one of whom was supposed to originally take place in late September 2020 for the purpose of presenting the latest version of e-platform. Eight months later the meeting finally took place and naturally a more sophisticated and complete version of produced e-platform was presented. The updates from the previous project meetings to make the platform more practical on day to day basis, to ensure intra-regional network opportunities as well as to consider smoother integration into each country individually were taken into account and now presented.
Following this, a seminar was organised for coaches from Lithuania around the topic of Health – The Foundation of Youth Football Players Development. Within this seminar the practical application of using the developed e-platform was presented and discussed with regional coaches to showcase how to more effectively contribute to youth athlete’s development in a healthy manner. Furthermore, CSKA Moscow academy coach Alexander Baumann shared his expertise on the aforementioned topics by joining the seminar via video call and engaging in discussions with regional coaches.
Towards the end of June, a meeting was organised in Valmiera, Latvia. This time around one of the most renowned UEFA coaches Stefan Ristic from Serbia joined regional coaches from Latvia to talk about his experience in player development and lessons learned throughout his years working at such clubs like Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona. All those in the attendance could also hear about how different cultures and regions require different approaches towards youth player training and why tools such as the newly created e-platform allows to better develop new talents.
The next step for REACT project is to organise coach seminar in Elva, Estonia later this July where another expert from football industry will share his learnings about youth player development. After this event, a final conference will be held in Latvia in partnership with Latvian Football Federation to share the learnings, discuss best approaches and conclude the project.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union for being so understanding and flexible around the implementation of this project. In times like these when circumstances are changing so often it`s important to find solutions that work for all involved parties, and we are thankful that we have managed to do exactly that.
With a final conference in Valmiera, Latvia on 26.08.2021, the Regional Coach Training (REACT) project has successfully finished. Following the coach seminar in Elva at the middle of August, we have presented the digital platform designed for the coach education, named minute.coach pro. This digital tool will act as a platform where all the regional football coaches will be able to learn and gain knowledge around sports-specific and health-related topics. The platform will act as a depository of knowledge where seminars, interviews, masterclasses, and other valuable material will be stored. Everyone who is keen to learn will be able to access the platform for free and not only consume the hours of content but also engage in discussions with other professionals to further shape the understanding and exchange best practice examples.
In the attendance at the event in Valmiera there were some industry expert guests. One of them was Pavel Cherednichenko who is one of the most promising youth coaches in the most successful Ukrainian football club Dynamo Kyiv academy setup. Following the event here`s what he had to say: “I think these people have managed to develop a unique project. It`s something I`ve never seen before in our industry and I`m certain this tool can help many of the coaches not only within the Baltic region but in the broader world.”
Given the positive feedback, we are planning to build on our existing relationship with Dynamo Kyiv from other successful projects and progress the talks for this huge club to become a partner and expert in utilizing the platform. Implementing the minute.coach into the day to day activities of this successful football academy will further enhance the development and as a result all the potential users would benefit from the improvements in this digital tool.
Furthermore, a member from Latvian Football Federation`s coach education sector Kirils Buravcevs touched on the importance of education in the regions as key for the improvement of football and praised the efforts of REACT project partners by saying: “Your initiative to develop this platform is a great step in the right direction and we appreciate the efforts and results that this project has delivered.”
Going forwards the project partners Baltic Football School, FC Elva, Siauliai FA and Valmiera FC will continuously provide new material on the minute.coach pro platform for others to learn from, which will focus on training methodology and various exercise sets on injury prevention and posture improvement with the aim of minimising the injury risk in athletes. To access the platform, all you have to do is click on the following link https://pro.minute.coach/ and follow the onboarding process to register and start improving your professional know-how.
Finally, we would like to thank all the people who were involved in this project either directly or indirectly and to European Union Erasmus+ Programme for providing the opportunities for such projects to see the light of day. We believe this project is just the beginning as more work needs to be done to improve the broader understanding of the importance of health in youth athlete development and our hope is that our project can act as a motivation for others to get on board and steer the ship in the right direction to improve this beautiful game that we all love.