The sports-loving city of Split, Croatia was a location for the second meeting of the European Commission Expert Group, "Skills and Human Resources Development in Sport" (HR XG) on 11–12 July 2018. The XG, set up under the Third EU Work Plan for Sport (2017–2020), had before held its first meeting in Bath, UK in February 2018.
The main themes of the 2-day seminar were the qualifications and skills in sport, especially coaches’ education. Case examples from Ireland (Fiona Larkin, Sport Ireland), Germany (Wiebke Fabinski, DOSB) and Estonia (Prof. Kristjan Port, Tallinn University), as well as the data collected from the participants prior to the meeting, highlighted the fact that coaches’ education and qualifications vary substantially around Europe. In some countries, the profession is highly regulated at a state level and only accessible through university education. In other countries, the threshold for taking up coaching is low, and volunteer coaches make great contributions to organised sport at all levels. In many cases it is the sports movement itself that sets the standards for coaches and provides quality education. In some national systems, the qualifications of coaches have been included in national or European qualifications framework, which helps the recognition of coaches’ competences also outside of the sports sector.
The meeting also aimed at launching the work to compile expert recommendations on the basic requirements for skills and competences for coaches. The discussion was boosted by presentations, which gave insight to the different paths that an aspiring coach might take, as well as the variety of competences needed in coaches’ work today. Sergio Lara-Bercial (International Council for Coaching Excellence) suggested in his presentation that coaches’ competences must be regarded from a wider perspective today, as coaches deal with not only (future) elite athletes, but people of different ages, backgrounds, fitness levels and motivations to do sport. Finnish volleyball icon Tuomas Sammelvuo from the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) presented his inspiring personal story and career path from top level athlete to professional coach.
The experts’ recommendations will be directed towards any institutions or organisations responsible for coaches’ education, regardless of how the system is organised. The recommendations can pave the way for recognising the variety of skills and knowledge that coaches today need, implementing these observations into coaches’ education, and highlighting the transferability of these skills to other sectors. The recommendations are not aimed to have a direct impact, but rather to inspire decision-makers and thus create change. The first draft of the recommendations will be discussed during the 3rd Expert Group meeting, to be held in November 2018 in Salzburg.
On the second day, Kairis Ulp presented the Estonian Sports Register, where all professional coaches, as well as sports clubs, are registered. The concept of learning mobility was also introduced, and will be a more prominent topic during the next XG meeting in November.