Friday 20 October 2023, 11:00

Anouschka Bernhard: From mentee to mentor

  • Anouschka Bernhard shares her experience as a mentor at the FIFA Coach Education Scholarship Programme

  • Aminath Siyana (Maldives) and Irene Hehir (Republic of Ireland) are her current mentees

  • "The demands on coaches have become much more diverse"

Anouschka Bernhard has experienced for herself what it feels like to be a mentee in one of FIFA's women's football development programmes. In 2018, the long-time U-16 and U-17 junior coach of the German Football Association took part in FIFA's Coach Mentorship programme - with Pia Sundhage as her mentor at the time. For Bernhard, this was an invaluable experience and something she herself would like to pass on to the next generation. In January 2021, she took over the post of association sports teacher of the Schleswig-Holstein Football Association (SHFV) and the sporting management in the women's and girls' sector, including all junior selection teams. "I now work in a state association and the topic of mentoring is something I push a lot. I know it can be extremely helpful for young, inexperienced female coaches - I've experienced that at FIFA and UEFA level," Bernhard tells "I'm trying to implement this in our national association as well, because I'm absolutely convinced that it's a really cool programme. If I can play my part in making a mentee feel the way I felt with Pia, that would be great."

Bernhard has also switched sides at FIFA - from mentee to mentor. At the FIFA Coach Education Scholarship programme, she is there to help her protégés. Her first task is to filter out the different needs of her mentees and support them in achieving their goals. "Specifically in my case, a mentee was currently completing her A-license training course. So, it was about talking to her about this training, giving her feedback on things, how she was working and just talking to her about football. It was about giving her some reassurance and saying that what she is doing is right from my point of view and my experience. I give her neutral feedback," describes Bernhard, who was responsible for coordinating and conducting sighting and preparation courses at DFB level and led numerous further and advanced training courses for coaches.

"My other protégé wants to start a women's league in the Maldives. That is something completely different. That was about what steps you have to take. Who to approach, and how to approach so that it might succeed."

Communication between mentee and mentor initially takes place via email or WhatsApp, allowing both parties to be in contact with each other even at the most unusual times. "Basically, I am always available. Last year I had a mentee from India, so it was a bit problematic with the time difference," says Bernhard, who maintains contact even after the end of the programme. "With my mentee from India, I just wrote back and forth again. She keeps me updated. It's totally nice to follow up. The internet also helps a bit. You Google the name and see she has now done this or this. That makes me proud."

Bernhard has every reason to be proud, after all, she has also made her contribution through the scholarship programme. In her opinion, the programme can also help the participants to meet much more diverse requirements. "The more knowledge you have, the more confident you can do what you do. When you are confident in what you are doing, you perform better. That's why a programme like this is extremely important, because the mentees benefit from our experience. With Irene (Hehir), I know how it feels to take exams in the licensing area because I correct exams myself. So of course I can help her perform better in her field," the former German national player explains. "In all that we train, in all that we do on the pitch, the big headline always has to be that it's called playing football. Playing has much to do with fun, with a positive environment and attitude. I can be so well trained in the technical and tactical areas and have ideas. But if I don't manage to also light a fire in those I coach, then it's work and then it's not fun. That's something I try to pass on to everyone."

Women's Football