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Hoffenheim's success is no accident

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Hoffenheim's success is no accident

Postby FCBayernNews » Thu Dec 04, 2008 7:00 pm

Hoffenheim only appeared on the Bundesliga radar last summer, when the club from the south-western village of just 3,500 souls arrived in the top flight after successive promotions from the third and second divisions. During that period, sports psychologist Philipp Laux was a member of the TSG coaching staff, before joining Jürgen Klinsmann's team at Bayern last August. Ahead of Friday's meeting between the high-flying sides, Laux assessed his former club for

Interview: Philipp Laux Philipp, you spent two years with Hoffenheim, so have you been fielding a lot of calls ahead of Friday's reunion?
Laux: "All I've had was a question from Hoffenheim team manager Dirk Rittmüller, asking where their coaching staff - which is as big as ours here in Munich - might sit at the Allianz Arena. Otherwise, nothing." Do you still talk to anyone from Hoffenheim?
Laux: "Very little. I had two good a successful years there, but I'm not in regular contact with anyone." You know the players and coach Ralf Rangnick very well. What's TSG's recipe for success?
Laux: "It's tough to explain in a couple of sentences, but I'll say this: Hoffenheim's success is no accident. Conditions there were already worthy of the top flight when Ralf Rangnick took over in the third division two or more years ago. He inherited a team which was already long on quality, and has now been optimised by good scouting. In terms of training facilities, Hoffenheim were on a par with most Bundesliga clubs even when they were in the third division. What's more, Rangnick boasts a coaching staff in which every member brings his full expertise to bear. Hoffenheim's success is no coincidence." Hoffenheim were also one of the first clubs in Germany to anchor sports psychology in their training programme. How much has that contributed to their progress?
Laux: "You can't express it as a figure, but sports psychology is part of the jigsaw which brings a few percent more out of the players. The mental aspect has to be right if you're looking for optimal performance." Were Hoffenheim the pioneers of sports psychology in German football?
Laux: "No, the pioneer was Jürgen Klinsmann with the national team. Some clubs used sports psychologists prior to that, but only in critical situations, when relegation threatened for example. Jürgen was the first to see it as a normal part of performance optimisation, alongside technique, tactics and fitness." Hoffenheim striker Vedad Ibisevic says sports psychology has helped him develop his game enormously of late.
Laux: "I can well imagine that. Vedad wasn't a regular in the second division, but now he's easily the most prolific striker in the Bundesliga. On top of his physical, technical and tactical progress, he seems to have no mental barriers even in tough situations. Indeed, he's being driven on by his mental strength." Speaking as a psychologist, how would you rate Hoffenheim's stunning run?
Laux: "Their run is certainly partly down to psychology. The players are mentally attuned to situations during matches, i.e. they're aware of their strengths. They also know how to play to their strengths in pressure situations. This adds up to belief and a higher likelihood of success." People say matches are won and lost in the head. Is that especially true of Friday?
Laux: "Mental strength is one of the decisive factors, not just on Friday, but in every match. But you need the other factors too: not shirking tackles, playing as a team, a willingness to help your team-mates when the going gets tough." What does your job involve ahead of Friday's clash?
Laux: "My task is preparing the players mentally, although I'm not responsible for motivating the team, that's Jürgen Klinsmann's role. I'm not really focused on specific matches, the work I do is ongoing throughout the season. I deal with questions such as: how do I cope with stress? With success and failure? How do I maintain concentration?" Will Jürgen Klinsmann include you a little more in the preparations for this particular match?
Laux: "We've spoken briefly about Hoffenheim's key players, but Jürgen's assistants and our scouting section always prepare a perfect pre-match analysis of our opponents. They'll have precisely identified Hoffenheim's strengths, and especially their weaknesses." Finally, how do you think it will finish on Friday?
Laux: "We'll win."
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