Where club hockey is all about seasons, international hockey is all about cycles – four year cycles – with the ultimate aim an Olympic medal.
The German Hockey Federation (DHB) is busy preparing for the next four years and the national body has called on an internationally experienced set of coaches and backroom staff in its quest to go a step further than the two bronze medals the teams brought back from Rio 2016.
Among the appointments are Russell Garcia, who was the youngest player to represent Great Britain men at an Olympic Games, has coached Scotland’s men and worked as Assistant Coach to the Dutch men; and Aditya Pasarakonda, who coached the Swiss national team for four years, as well as enjoying a successful spell with the German Under-16 boy's team. Both join as Assistant Coaches to the men's national team. Jimmy Lewis, the former Great Britain goalkeeper, will act as Goalkeeper Coach to all teams.
Stefan Kermas has stepped into the shoes of Valentin Altenburg to take control of the men’s national side. His appointment means the four top coaching positions – Head Coaches to the men’s and women’s senior sides and Head Coaches to the men’s and women’s Under-21 squads – are now complete. Kermas joins Jamilon Mülders (women’s Head Coach), Valentin Altenburg (men’s Junior Coach) and Akim Bouchouchi (Women’s junior coach).
Bouchouchi has already enjoyed considerable success with the Under-18 men’s national side, so his appointment is a logical step up through the age groups. "The whole team at the DHB is very interesting at the moment, which is why I am very excited about this task," says Bouchouchi.
"I look forward to a good cooperation between the teams. With the Under-21 women, we want to see how the team reacts after the intense World Cup year. Our main tournament is the European Championships at the beginning of September, but I am quite relaxed about that.”
"With Akim Bouchouchi, we have an ambitious coach taking over the junior women,” said Britta Becker, Vice-President of the DHB. “He knows our training and talent promotion system well and is himself a participant in the coaching programme of the DHB. We have great confidence that, in close coordination with Jamilon Mülders, he will bring the best out of the women's national team.”
A wealth of experience will be sitting on the bench with Mülders as he is joined by former German international Matthew Hetherington, who has been Co-Coach to top club side RW Köln and 328-time Belgian national player Xavier Reckinger.
Reckinger has been working with the Belgium Under-21 women’s team, leading them to a sixth place finish, their best ever performance, at the Hockey Junior World Cup in 2016.
"I've known Xavier for a very long time,” said Mülders. “He is a former top player, who has mastered the change to become a coach very well. He has very high professional standards, and thus can become extremely valuable for us.”
Adding yet more experience to this team of internationally renowned coaches is former German national, the double Olympic champion Matthias Witthaus. He will be part of Team Altenburg, as the Under-21 side aims for a win at the 2017 Junior European Championships.
"Witti's commitment is also designed in the long term towards Tokyo," says Altenburg. "He is an ideal example for young talent, because he is like no other. He was a junior European champion at the age of 15 and made his debut in the senior squad at the age of 16.”
These appointments are very much in line with the International Hockey Federation's (FIH) 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy. One of the big goals aimed at making hockey a global game that inspires the next generation is to increase the degree of professionalism in the sport.
For more information about the hockey in Germany, click here.