4 December 2019 – The first FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme (CMP), which saw 17 elite members of the women’s football coaching world guide 21 mentees through a year of acquiring new knowledge, skills and experience, has reached a conclusion in Zurich.
Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis was also in attendance.
The setting for the programme’s inauguration in October 2018 was a fitting place to draw to a close more than a year of shared experiences that have spanned continents and generations.
The closing workshop gave an opportunity for the mentors and mentees to come together to discuss their experience of the CMP, in order for FIFA’s Women’s Football division to enhance the experience for the next cohort.
One of the most high-profile mentors was undoubtedly Jill Ellis – The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2019 – who recently stepped down from her role as Head Coach of the US Women’s National Team, having led her country to back-to-back FIFA Women’s World Cup™ trophies.
A unique session during the workshop – titled ‘Coffee with Jill Ellis’ – saw the two-time world champion coach discuss her success and the CMP with FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman.
“I think the programme has been fantastic,” Ellis said. “The purpose of it, to bring people together, not just the mentors and mentees – but also to bring the mentors together, to spend time with my peers, has been fantastic. It’s about connecting people. The programme will continue to evolve and grow. I think everybody involved with it has found the benefit in it.
“Monica [Vergara, Ellis’s mentee] is fantastic. She’s a good person. You get to know the people beyond the coaches. She’s got great energy and is a really good coach. She’s just a wonderful human being.”
Across the year, mentors and mentees had the opportunity to meet in-person to learn from each other’s respective coaching environments, with those meetings supplemented by Skype calls and other contact throughout the course of the programme. Both the mentors and mentees offered feedback during the workshop, which also served as a celebration and ‘graduation’ of the mentees.
Sessions included the aforementioned ‘Coffee with Jill Ellis’, as well as a reflection on the programme, a career planning exercise and a ‘Readiness’ session – which looked at on-field experience and next steps.
“I think it’s really important to facilitate a transfer of knowledge,” said Bareman. “When you have such experienced, capable coaches who are willing to support and provide expertise and give their experience and knowledge to the next generation, we have to facilitate that and we have to make use of it.”
“A lot of the success of the programme has come from how good the pairings were,” Bareman continued. “We’ve had some amazing results from the coaches on the pitch as well and a lot of our mentees have taken up the helm of some of their youth national teams, which I think is concrete evidence of the positive results of this programme.”
“One of the main objectives we have in our women’s football strategy that was launched last year is to increase the number of qualified female coaches, and also increase the opportunities for them,” added Patricia Gonzalez, FIFA’s Women’s Football Technical Development Manager.
“Part of this workshop has been to take feedback from both mentors and mentees, to try to optimise the programme for the next edition and try to identify more mentors. We see the programme rolling out again as soon as possible – optimised, increasing the numbers involved and the duration of the programme.”
The focus of the programme is undoubtedly on the mentees, with each now graduating from this cycle with new knowledge of, and a fresh perspective on, the footballing world. The experience, contacts and knowledge they have picked up in the past 12 months have been invaluable.
“It has a huge impact in your life,” Monica Vergara, coach of the Mexico U-20 Women’s National Team and mentee to Jill Ellis. “It changes your perspective completely. I’m very grateful because it was an amazing period of personal growth. I felt like a little girl in Disneyland.”
“I loved having Jill as a mentor, because she showed me her most personal side,” Vergara continued. “She was so generous. She gave me the chance to talk about absolutely everything: family, fears, training sessions, my team. She is the best coach in the world at the moment and she’s my mentor… it is amazing.”
While the current cohort enter a new phase in their personal development, the next graduates from the Coach Mentorship Programme will hope to follow in their footsteps – with the new iteration of the programme set to begin after the first edition has been evaluated.