LUCKNOW: The second week of February this year was a difficult one for Hoffenheim. The Bundesliga side, in the relegation zone only a few years after punching above their station, saw the experienced Huub Stevens resign due to heart problems. The 62-year-old, who was scheduled to stay on with the club till the summer, walked.
Julian Nagelsman, working with the club's Under-19 team, was sworn in. Nothing strange there apart from the fact that he was novice himself. He was 28, younger than players who were playing under him. Since then, Nagelsman, who has already caught the attention of both Arsenal and Bayern Munich, has taken the side to a place of safety.
Nagelsman is a continuing trend of youthful coaches trying to upstage the establishment. Jurgen Klopp (formerly of Borussia Dortmund and now with Liverpool) and Thomas Tuchel (formerly with Mainz and now with Dortmund) immediately come to mind. In hockey too, there is a young man at the helm of affairs in Germany -- Valentin Altenburg, who is just 35.
The German system across all team sports, one of the most advanced systems in the world, found a way to reward to younger coaches and Altenburg, who is here as the chief coach of the junior side, makes a few valid points with respect to the changing tide.
Germans, he believes, are openly embracing the ever changing dynamics of what constitutes a team. "I think the generation of players has changed," he says to Express . "Their attitudes have changed. It's not just hockey or football but a major sporting phenomenon across the world. Trainers have to understand them, that's not changed. Maybe sometimes that's easier for the younger coaching generation to understand the playing generation.
"It's easier for a young coach to understand how young players want to be integrated into a team, how they want to be integrated into a process within a side."
Germany, which has become a byword for efficiency, understood this phenomenon before most nations even spotted a trend. "It has definitely changed in Germany," he says. "Maybe the new generation is equipped to understand that and work towards it. That leads to unlocking the potential found in a kid that bit better."
The Hamburg native, who won a bronze medal with the senior team in Rio, doesn't really know what the older trainers do but his views on what an ideal coach make for fascinating reading. "I don't really know how the older coaches do their work because often times it's too much of a secret," he says. "I try and develop healthy relationships between all players off the pitch. Because as a coach it's not only our responsibility to develop players but also the person behind each and every one of them. Especially if we are training kids, because they are at an important phase in their life."
Jose Mourinho, as opposed to a Jurgen Klopp, has had his detractors because of his failure to integrate starlets. Altenburg, though, isn't one of them. "It's not that easy to say that (not integrating youngsters in the team in the recent past) is the main reason," he says on the United manager's recent run of iffy results.
"Both (Klopp and Mourinho) have been successful so you have to be careful to compare before making one better than the other. They both have different approaches but both have won with their respective approaches and that's the main quality you need in a coach. You need to get results."
Both sides have had polemics thrown at them and the next few years will be critical to see whether the tide has definitely turned.