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Birnie back into learning mode

New Zealand U-20 Women's coach Leon Birnie. Image: FIFA via Getty Images

Two days after leading the country’s top women’s youth team at the most prestigious age group tournament in the world, New Zealand U-20 women’s coach Leon Birnie is getting straight back to work, reaching for the region’s highest coaching qualification.

Birnie is one of 22 coaches participating in the OFC/NZF A Licence Part Two coaching course led by New Zealand Football Technical Director Rob Sherman at Bruce Pulman Park in Papakura, Auckland this week.

Part One, held in 2015 was an excellent experience for Birnie who was able to take that knowledge to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea earlier this month.

Birnie is now looking forward to gaining more from the same participatory style of training.

“Rob’s a fantastic tutor, world-wide he’s one of the best and to come and do the first part – for me personally leading up to the world cup – there was some great learnings in it,” he said.

“I think the main thing with any course is you come on and you’ve got some of the top coaches in the country here and you can just bounce ideas of them. Obviously you want to keep evolving as a coach and that’s why we go on courses and the timing for me before the World Cup was really beneficial.”

Although the main aim is to earn the qualification, Birnie is also looking forward to interacting with the region’s leading coaches again and mutually benefitting from each other’s experiences.

“The main thing for me is to come on, keep developing as a coach, challenge myself, put my opinions out there and other people will challenge those,” he said.

“We’ll bounce ideas and have a forum with a lot top coaches.

“It’s quite hard to get those opportunities to have so many people in one place so when they are there, I want to be involved and keep developing and improving as a coach.”

Like his move up from New Zealand’s assistant coach at the 2014 FIFA Women’s World Cup to head coach for the 2016 campaign, the course has proven to be a good challenge for Birnie and helped him push his coaching ability to a higher level.

“It’s a lot more detailed,” he said.

“There’s two parts to it. First there’s a lot more detail when you’re doing sessions and you’re working through videos or analysis. What they require and the level you’ve got to be able to put across is just so much more detailed and that’s a really good challenge for coaches on here. The second part is, with the new style and the new delivery mechanisms that they’ve introduced, it’s been a bit of a change flicking from the old style, trying to learn the new style and being able to implement that.

“It’s really good. It’s refreshing and I’m enjoying it.”

The end of the course will see Birnie return to his New Zealand U-20 women’s coaching role to review the recent World Cup before moving back to domestic football with his New Zealand NRFL Premier League club in the New Year.

“I’ll sit down with the Ferns staff and NZF Technical Director Rob Sherman and go over the review for the World Cup.

“Then at the start of next year we’ll be back into our work for Central Football and from there we’ll see what the future holds.”

The OFC/NZF A Licence course will conclude on 4 December after the 22 coaches have completed their final assessments.

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