How to Become a Football Manager

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A football manager on the touchline holding a ball

At the game’s highest level, soccer managers are held in the same high esteem as the players themselves. Top managers like Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane, and, in the past, Sir Alex Ferguson, are or were immensely respected by both fans and players alike.

However, having firm convictions is one thing, but actually being a football manager is far more demanding. You need to be emotionally, physically, and mentally fit. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the steps involved in becoming a football manager.

The Difference between a Football Coach and a Football Manager

Before we get into the main meat of the topic, let’s just clear up the difference between a football coach and a football manager. A head coach is someone that is responsible for getting the players to play better, to get better results on the field of play. A football manager, on the other hand, is not only supposed to improve the way players perform, but also run other affairs at the club.

What qualifications do you need?

Some universities offer sports degrees or some form of sports courses. But getting a sports degree won’t necessarily guarantee you a job as a football manager. Many will tell you that the best University to study at is the University of life, and there is a certain amount of truth in this.

Elite managers do tend to have been soccer players, although not necessarily the best. Jürgen Klopp, for example, didn’t have a sports degree and spent most of his playing career at  Mainz 05, where although he was a good player, he was never thought of as being world-class.

So yes, getting a sports degree is a possible route to take, but at the end of the day, it is more likely to be having the relevant experience that counts. Coaching a local youth team or a college or university team is a good place to start. Having said that, qualifications are necessary, and the place to begin is with the FA’s coaching badges.

The FA Coaching Badge program

Ideally, a football manager needs to be a qualified coach, especially if we are talking about managing as a profession and not just a hobby. The FA’s coaching badge programs start at Level 1 and go all the way through to being awarded an FA/UEFA Pro License – something that is a must if you have set your sights on managing at the elite level.

The Various Levels to the  Coaching Badge Program

In total, there are five progressive levels within the FA Badge structure. These are the core elements, and they consist of:

  • Level 1 – Coaching football
  • Level 2 – Coaching football
  • Level 3 – (UEFA B) Coaching football
  • Level 4 – (UEFA A) Coaching football
  • Level 5 – (UEDA Pro) Coaching football

There also used to be some separate courses for youth coaching. But in 2016 these were incorporated into the current FA Level 1&2 courses.

The costs may vary slightly from region to region, but as a guide, level 1 costs £150, level 2 – £320, level 3 – £550, level 4 – £720, and level 5 – £3000. The other proviso is that is you want to progress beyond level 2, you must work (paid or voluntarily) for a football club. If you would like more information regarding the syllabus for each level, please visit the FA Boot Room webpage.

A football coach on the touchline at a training ground

Coaching Kids

Health and safety is a big issue today, and even if coaching/managing a kids’ team, you should have an FA Coaching Level 1 Badge, or complete The FA Safeguarding Children Workshop. In addition, you will need a DBS check. First aid is an issue too, so you ought to undergo an Introduction to First Aid in Football (IFAiF) course.

Other Traits you will need

Whether you go through the official training courses or not, there is much more involved in being a football manager than just game theory.  You will, for example, need to be an excellent communicator. The higher your aspirations go, the more you must be willing to work all the hours that the big man sends.

Communication with everyone involved is key, and you will need a commanding presence. You will also have to be good at handling pressure, and you will need to be able to multi-task.

Self-confidence and assertion

You can’t expect to have a commanding presence unless you have total, unwavering confidence in yourself. You must also be assertive. In football, everyone has an opinion, but as the manager, yours is the only one that counts, and you need to ride rough-shod over others where necessary. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and be discreet where possible. But remember – you’re the boss.

Making decisions is one thing, but making them quickly is something else. In many instances, you won’t have the luxury of time to agonise over every detail. Yes, your decisions must be smart, but you also need to learn how to make them quickly.

Honesty is the Only Policy

As a football manager, everyone ought to trust and respect you – even your opponents or enemies. It means that honesty is always the best policy. It’s a bit like politics. Any lies will always catch up with you, and once your character becomes questionable, your time as a football manager is at an end.

Knowing what the Job Entails

Remember that as a football manager rather than a coach, your duties and responsibilities will be that much more inclusive. Typically, they will include:

  • Planning your coaching regime
  • Evaluating player performance and giving feedback
  • Deciding on tactics and techniques
  • Nurturing squad physical and mental health and strength
  • Motivating your players
  • Team rotation
  • Working with other professional including nutritionists and physiotherapists
  • Keeping records
  • Obtaining sponsorships
  • Arranging team transport

As you can see, a football manager’s job is all-encompassing. It is sheer hard work, but at the and of the day, the rewards can be amazing.

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