Does the German talent pool run empty? Is too much taken from the players.... is individuality missing? Tobias Haupt, the head of the new DFB (Deutscher Fussball Bund) Academy, draws attention to questionable developments so far:
"... at one point or another we lost touch"
Miroslav Klose, Ex International and U-17 coach at FC Bayern Munich (in an interview with the German Sports Magazine 'kicker' a few months ago) had already criticized that he missed the passion, heart and 'unconditional will' of many youth players. Haupt agrees and takes it further, pointing to a sensory overload in the young players.
"It is striking that many youngsters lack the original fun of the game. They hardly show any emotions in training and in the game," said the 35-year-old.
"The daily routine of these kids is completely timed from early in the morning to late at night, at home, at soccer and school. In addition, they are sheltered from almost everything. It is clear that they no longer develop individuality."
"Parents demand better grades and threaten to change clubs"
Haupt also sees the attitude of some parents as problematic. He reports that pressure is being exerted on another level. "We have cases in which parents come to the club and ask us to improve their son's grades at school, otherwise he will move to another club," says Haupt. "As a result, some first clubs are now saying that this is not the right player or parent for them. Such a player is dropped."
What can the DFB learn from the San José Sharks?
In addition to a player's ability, the focus shifts increasingly on a player's character. During an educational trip to the USA, the head of the DFB Academy saw what the criteria for choosing a player could look like. The general manager of the NHL's San José Sharks gave some intriguing insights: Candidates are already observed during the waiting times before the interviews. Are they watching the game that is running on a monitor? Or are they bored, doodling around on their cell phones? Or they let the players 'accidentally' meet the cleaning lady and watch their behaviour towards her. These observations will influence the decision to drop or pick a player.
Despite everything, Haupt sees the situation of German youth football as 'not dramatically in jeopardy'. "But at one point or another we lost touch" he says. "Coaching, player development, personalities, mentality, performance optimization ...everything counts." The DFB Academy, it seems, has identified their challenges.