“The training program for coaches is good and very thorough,” said Jens Langeneke, a member of the latest graduating class of the German Football Association’s (DFB) coaching course at the Hennes-Weisweiler Academy in Hennef near Bonn. 

Among the 23 other members of the former Fortuna Düsseldorf player’s class were ex-national team players Tim Borowski and Christian Rahn, as well as RB Leipzig’s new assistant coach, Dino Toppmöller. Just one woman was among them: Imke Wübbenhorst who recently became head coach of fourth-tier men’s side Sportfreunde Lotte. 

Not surprisingly, the fact that three previous graduates made it to this year’s Champions League semifinals wasn’t lost on Laneneke. 

Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann are exceptionally talented coaches who went through a very good training program,”  Langeneke said, referring to the coaches of finalists Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig – who met in the semifinals. 

“Hansi Flick is currently coaching the world’s best club. With all due respect to Flick: He is doing an outstanding job, but a lot of people could coach Bayern Munich in their current state,” he said of Bayern’s treble-winning coach with a laugh. 

 DFB boss Keller: ‘This is really something’ 

German football officials are justifiably proud of the success of their coaches in the Champions League in the season just past. Oliver Bierhoff, the DFB’s director of national teams and the academy spoke of “a wonderful moment of success for German football.” DFB President Fritz Keller concurred, saying that having three German-trained coaches make it to the semifinals of the Champions League “is really something.”  

However, the days of Flick and Tuchel darkening the doors of the DFB’s coaching academy are long gone. Flick – who was national team coach Joachim Löw’s assistant when Germany won the 2014 World Cup – earned his coaching badges in 2003, while Tuchel did so in 2006. The course will likely be fresher in the mind of  Nagelsmann, who graduated with top marks in 2014.  

More practical, more individualized 

Even since then, though, there have been a lot of changes to the course. Jens Langeneke and Co., who graduated earlier this month, were the 66th class to do so but they were also the first to complete it in its new format. The course now lasts 11 months instead of nine and, according to the DFB, now focusses more on practical experience and is more tailored to the individual. 

 In Langeneke’s view, the changes have been “very successful.”  

“I was coaching a team at the same time, the U17 team from Fortuna Düsseldorf,” he said. “The aim was to implement what I had learned in a timely and practical manner. This worked very well.”  

Langeneke had his training sessions with his team recorded and then posted them online. His trainers and fellow students then provided him with feedback. 

Criticism from a former national team player 

Three years ago, former Bayern and Germany midfielder Mehmet Scholl caused a media stir by sharply criticizing the DFB’s training program. Scholl charged that the course amounted to “brainwashing,” that would lead to only compliant coaches getting a shot in professional football in Germany. While Scholl may have been somewhat extreme in his choice of works, Langeneke said the point he was making is a valid one.  

“I also observe this at the academy in Düsseldorf: Football players are becoming increasingly similar. They go through the youth high-performance centers, but there are no real outliers to the left or right.  

Under the new DFB concept for training coaches, “performance-orientated youth football” is only the seventh of eight sub-items under the keyword “focus on football.”  

“We talked about it, but we didn’t focus on youth development,” Langeneke said. In the field of professional soccer, he added, there is no longer any need to school coaches on the need to promote individuality on the pitch. 

“Every coach likes to have guys who can do something special and disrupt what they have become used to, because when 11 tactically and physically well-trained football players stand on either side of the pitch, there is a great danger that they will wind up neutralizing each other. That’s why in the future, we’ll probably have more evenly balanced matches in which fewer goals are scored.” 

 No problem with Müller 

The days when veteran Germany players like Jürgen Klinsmann, Matthias Sammer or Andreas Köpke were able to obtain their coaching license in a crash course at the DFB’s coaching academy – as all three did in 2000 – are long gone.  

“That’s just as well,” Langeneke said. “I would have no problem with a Thomas Müller simply being handed his coaching badges. He has experienced and taken in so much. However, he too would quickly find out that coaching is completely different from being a player. That’s why it makes sense for everyone to go through this course.” 

Although he did play in the Bundesliga with Fortuna Düsseldorf, there was never any danger of the now 43-year-old Langeneke being handed his coaching badges on a silver platter. Having successfully completed the course, his dream now is to someday coach a professional team.  

“You don’t take the football coaching course to spend the next 20 years coaching kids,” Langeneke said. “But you do need a bit of luck to get to the pros. Should it happen someday, I feel I will be well prepared.