Gagnon relishing FFF experience

U15 head coach is fourth Impact coach to participate in year-long formation

After Philippe Eullafroy, Wilfried Nancy, and Serge Dinkota, another Impact coach is taking advantage of the educational partnership between MLS and the French Football Federation.

In the fourth edition of the partnership, U15 head coach Nicolas Gagnon becomes the fourth Impact member to join 19 of his peers, this time in Clairefontaine, France, for the first week of the training, which took place in the beginning of September.

Gagnon, who had spoken in depth with those that had already participated in the program, definitely had high expectations going into it.

“Everyone who took part in this program told me that I had no choice but to progress,” said Gagnon, back in Montreal after the first part of the program came to an end. “It’s one of the best training hubs in the world, and everyone that participates in it grows in some way, which isn’t always the case with these formations.”

The program begins in Clairefontaine, in France, where a combination of theory and on-field training make up the first week, and where the MLS coaches are first introduced to the methodologies and pedagogies of the FFF. At night, they were given homework: video analysis of different positions, players, and styles of play, detailing what is to be expected from every player at every position.

“It made me take a step back and think, not only about the game itself, but how to make players progress through their decision-making,” explained Gagnon. “You need to add certain constraints, variables, that will pose problems to the players that must be resolved. It’s important for players to learn how to solve these problems themselves, with precise interventions from the coach as well.”

The first week in Clairefontaine is followed by a week of European club immersion, where coaches received rigorous hands-on instruction from club management on training styles from top to bottom of the academy.

Gagnon, on his end, spent his second week on the Old Continent with Portuguese giants S.L. Benfica.

“The club in itself was a dream come true,” said Gagnon. “The unity between the pros and their U6 team was incredible. There’s a coordination between all levels of the club. They all work the same way but adapted to age. There’s a vision that starts at the top and that goes through the entire club.”

Gagnon is back in Montreal for now, and it’s back to business as usual, his team playing in the US Soccer Development Academy and taking on high-end opposition weekly. However, the second phase of the partnership will take place in November, meaning things will certainly move quickly for Gagnon in the coming weeks.

“This is truly a great opportunity,” said Gagnon. “As a coach, one of my main goals is to become the best coach possible, no matter what level or team I’m coaching. I want to help my players achieve their goals. This program allows me to question myself in order to better accommodate these young players. I’m happy, because I have a thirst for knowledge.”

In order to complete the EFCL program, each participating coach must secure a CSA or USSF A coaching license in advance of the final exam at the end of the 12-month period. At the conclusion, all passing participants will receive an Elite Formation Coaching License.

Created in 2013, the partnership has already seen more than 60 coaches graduate through the program to earn an EFCL license, including FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney, Real Salt Lake interim head coach Freddy Juarez, and Seattle Sounders FC technical director Marc Nicholls.