Coach's Corner: Germany's Gerald Hoenig
The Road To Pyeongchang doesn't just begin this summer. Teams have been on their way to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games for several years. In many cases, long term plans have created a gradual build up to Pyeongchang and helped the athletes develop each year. For this edition of "Coaches' Corner", German Women's National Coach Gerald Hoenig sat down in Oberhof and talked about his team's build-up heading into the 2017-18 season after their highly successful previous winter.
Keep On, Keepin' On
Last season, the German women won almost everything there was to win. Laura Dahlmeier dominated the IBU World Championships claiming a record five Gold medals. It's not just the 23-year-old that has had a great season. The entire team went from strength to strength. Nadine Horchler won her first World Cup in Antholz while Franziska Hildebrand, Maren Hammerschmidt and Vanessa Hinz posted solid results throughout the season and they were crucial parts of the German women's undefeated relay team over the course of the season. With an Olympic season coming up, expectations will be high, but Hoenig keeps a realistic outlook.
"I don't really think we would be well advised if we constantly reminded ourselves that the Olympic season is a special season. We sat down three years ago and developed a concept with this young women's team and asked ourselves: What do we want to achieve and where are we right now? How much can we expect of them and how can we continuously increase the workload as well as the challenges? This is the path that we have tried to follow steadily," Hoenig explained.
Creativity and Structures
Over the years, Germany has developed a well-tested system with several training bases across the country. Each of these camps have coaches and great facilities. While there is an overarching fundamental concept for the teams, it allows for less national team camps and more individual support. Still, communication is the key to success.
"We are communicating closely and we have to. We maintain constant contact with the coaches in Ruhpolding but that is a given because Tobias Reiter (German Women's Assistant Coach) has the majority of the national team at his base. Of course there's also constant contact with Bernhard Kroell; how is Laura Dahlmeier doing, how is Nadine Horchler doing? I think it is very important and one of the main foundations that the coaches at the base camps have their freedom. They can coordinate the training methodically and logistically but it also gives them the opportunity to be creative. However, there needs to be a certain fine-tuning between those bases", Hoenig elaborated.
The balance between working towards the same goal, having a solid overall concept and giving the coaches room to innovate needs to be right.
"I believe that is what is working extremely well in Germany at the moment and it's one of the main foundations of the success."
Different training methods for different athletes
With more than three months to go until the start of the 2017-18 BMW IBU World Cup Season in Östersund , most athletes will admit those weeks will pass by incredibly quickly. Summer training continues to gather steam throughout August. While there is an overall training plan, it needs to be fine-tuned individually because every athlete is different.
"Sometimes you are forced to adjust the schedule because someone gets sick or injured, but also because you just have to look at the training methods. There are athletes that react incredibly quickly to strength training or speed training. They need a different ratio between extensive and intensive training compared to those who are incredibly resilient when it comes to endurance and stamina."
"The bar has been set pretty high"
With a little more than six months to go until the start of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang, preparations in all sports are speeding towards the lighting of the flame in South Korea. However, particularly since it is an Olympic year, the German team will continue to follow the path they walked in previous years.
"We'll continue working on the base of the things that worked well in previous years - and I believe we've been on a good way so far. I don't think it would be a great idea if we continued to zoom in on Pyeongchang and say, 'This year we have to be particularly good and this year is special due to the Olympics.' Our results of the previous years have set the bar pretty high. It won't be easy to repeat that and it probably shouldn't be the assumption that we will", Hönig concluded with a smile.