„The enthusiasm must never be lost“
In conversation with Markus Hirte
The path to becoming a professional is fraught with obstacles for up-and-coming soccer players. In this interview, Markus Hirte, Sporting Director for Talent Promotion at the German Football Association DFB, explains how to find, nurture and motivate young talent.
How does youth development work at the DFB, and who is it aimed at?
The DFB’s talent promotion program has been around since 2002 and is aimed at the 11-14 age group, i.e. from U12 to U15. The aim is to identify young talent right across the country – outside of the club academies and elite soccer schools – and to develop it further through weekly DFB training alongside club training. There are a total of 366 centers across Germany, each with 3-4 paid coaches. The training itself is specifically tailored and focuses on the individual player. When we are looking at players, we focus on motor skills, i.e. the player’s agility and dexterity, but also their perception and decision-making on the pitch.
What are the biggest obstacles on the way to becoming a professional player nowadays?
One of the biggest challenges for young players is finding a balance between the demands of sport and the demands of school. This requires time management and concentration, and it’s often not easy. Another difficult aspect, and one that is not easy to influence, is the increasingly early age at which young players are focused on achieving their goals and dreams, for example “I’m going to play in the Bundesliga”. Other critical issues include the financial and business activities of agents, early club transfers and the associated monetary aspects. Ultimately, the players have to tread a fine line to pursue a goal while not neglecting other important things. On top of that, players go through their ups and downs, especially as they are growing up – and also have to accept setbacks if they are occasionally benched or are injured. It’s crucial to be able to deal with situations like this properly.
How do you best motivate players in the face of these challenges?
In my opinion, everything should revolve around the passion for what they are doing, in other words, the sheer joy and fun of playing. This enthusiasm must never be lost, and must be encouraged by the coach and the people around the player. For me, it is ultimately the basis for improved performance. No matter whether we are dealing with a serious, determined type or a more relaxed, playful character, personal contact with all players is crucial if we are going to be able to motivate them successfully. I think we have a very large pool of talent in Germany. The DFB helps to discover players with the potential to play professionally and pave the way for them to play in the Bundesliga and the national team.
Markus Hirte was born in Berlin in 1963 and has been the Sporting Director for Talent Promotion at the German Football Association DFB since 2016. He is responsible for talent development in the academies and the elite soccer schools for the DFB throughout Germany. Prior to this, he was the head of Fortuna Düsseldorf’s academy and worked for Hamburger SV and the Berlin Football Association.