He’s back where it all began. Thomas Schaaf has been knocking around the Werder performance academy for the last few days, right where he started his coaching career as the U17s boss back in 1988. His return is not to a managerial position. Schaaf is the new Technical Director at SV Werder and is hugely looking forward to the task ahead. “I took up the challenge because I enjoy it. Even when I was head coach, the youth setup was an important factor for me, because I know how much hard work and enthusiasm goes into it”, said the 57-year-old at his press conference on Wednesday.
Schaaf knows the structure at the Werder performance academy very well, from both his playing and coaching days. Much has changed since then, but the football mastermind is well aware. “The development in football has been displayed at this World Cup as well as at the last European Championships and U21 Euros. We need to learn from these changes and rethink our philosophy a bit. We need to draw the right conclusions for club’s path and adapt our approach. That will be one of the tasks I face, with a consistent focus on our style of play”, said Schaaf, who will continue his job at UEFA.
Schaaf discusses these adaptations mainly with regard to the performance academy. He describes the progress over the last few years under the management of director Björn Schierenbeck as “outstanding”. “Nevertheless, we must optimize our strategy. That was one of the main reasons I came back. We’re not going to restructure everything, rather incorporate some additional features to keep up with the developments in football.”
One of these additional features will be coach-mentoring. While communication with head coach Florian Kohfeldt “is an offer that is always on the table”, Thomas Schaaf will be in direct contact with the coaches in the youth academy. “I want to have discussions with our coaches, approach them with ideas about how we can and must adapt. It should be a mutual exchange. I’m not going to sit in an office, rather watch training sessions or travel with the youth teams on tour to see how the players and coaches work”, clarifies Schaaf. He continues, “Our interests need to be consistent with our intrinsic values. We must coach our youth talent so they understand how the professionals operate and therefore adapt quickly later on.”
Thomas Schaaf has a vast portfolio of jobs. Yet sporting director Frank Baumann is convinced they have found the perfect man for the job. “We are delighted to have Thomas on board. We have begun to intertwine aspects of the performance academy with the professionals’ setup since the start of the year, to further promote our youth talent. However, we need the right personnel for our wide-ranging goals and to optimise our training programme. We guarantee that through Thomas, our youth teams and coaches will be even better prepared; that we will be seeing the fruit of their labour in the Weser-Stadion over the next few years”, said Baumann.