Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In our conversations with contemporaries, we examine the claims, clichés and ideals surrounding our workplaces. This time we are visiting a sports field where the main task consists of working with and in a team – in football. FC Cologne coach Peter Stöger, who has set his new team on a successful course in no time at all, talks with Désirée Schellerer about his “programme”.
Peter Stöger was born and bred in Vienna and began his first career as a football player at Austrian sports clubs. His greatest achievements include winning several championship titles – three times with Austria Wien, once with Rapid – as well as several Austrian Cups. He made 65 appearances for the Austrian national team. He retired as a football player in 2004. That same year Peter Stöger started his second career as a coach. With his coaching, Austria Wien won the Austrian Cup and the championship title, most recently in June 2013. As of this July, Stöger has been the coach of FC Cologne’s first team and has scored swift success: the Cologne team shot to the top of the second division of Germany’s football league in no time at all.
Mr. Stöger, do you have a main workplace or are there two – one outside on the sports field and one in the office?
Yes, I have two workplaces: my office, which I share with three colleagues in the club house at our training area on the outskirts of Cologne. And the sports field. Our office is equipped with four desks and computers for our organisational work. The TVs are also important so that we can watch and analyse video recordings of the games. We also have our coach meetings here in the office. We use a flip chart to keep track of our strategic ideas. I also like using it as a reminder so that I won’t forget important things the next morning.
What do you appreciate about these workplaces?
In the office it’s the daylight; at the sports field, that it’s well-maintained.
How should we picture a typical workday in the life of a football coach?
It varies. It depends on which phase of the year we happen to be in, whether we are competing for a championship or in the process of preparing for it. But it’s something like this: I get to my office between 8 and 8:30 a.m. We discuss the preparations for the training. At 10 a.m., the team starts a technical training session for one to one-and-a-half hours. Then we have lunch with the entire team.
Afterwards there is a meeting with feedback among the trainers at the office. Then there is a second training session from about 3 to 4:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. we have a follow-up discussion. In the evening I’m often busy observing junior players or our next opponents. The games on the weekend are the highlight of the week. Two to three hours before the game starts, I share the "strategy review" with my team, we eat together and spend the entire day together.
How many people do you work with closely?
There are about forty people: three coaches, 25 players, five members in the team of doctors/physical therapists, five for media/marketing and three sports/finance managers. There are also journalists.
Our magazine is currently exploring the topic of "the team" – we are asking why someone enjoys working in or with a team. What are the motivations as well as special challenges for you?
Working with people has to be fun. Every day is a challenge: Dealing with forty people where each one has their own personality and different moods – bringing them all together, interacting with them and seeing that something is taking effect – this is special and very appealing.
You have been the coach of FC Cologne for only a few months – and you were immediately very successful. How did you adapt to your team? What do you think a team needs to be successful?
The main tasks of each football team are very similar. You deal with young people who want to be successful at sports and win the game. I don’t see myself as a motivator all that much. Everyone has their own motivation. Instead I try to clarify what it means to be successful. It’s about the sporting objective that you want to achieve. That is more important than money and recognition.
How do you make sure your team bonds well?
It is very crucial at the beginning of the season to define the goal we want to reach. For us, this is first place in the second division. We also have to define how we interact with each other and what is not acceptable. For example, no one may put his own ego before the team. Or: Internal matters stay in the locker room.
What makes a good team?
Trust, respect, responsibility. Trust in yourself, in the team and in the coaching team. Respect – treating each other respectfully. Responsibility for yourself and in my case, for the entire FC Cologne with its roughly 300 employees.
What is the best way to handle "stars" in a team?
Exactly the same way as everyone else.
Can you reveal how you motivate your team in critical situations? Let’s say it’s the half-time break and the FC Cologne is behind?
There is no patented recipe for such cases. It really depends on the mood. Sometimes you have to give negative criticism or raise your voice; other times you have to talk courage into them and have a calming influence, like a fatherly friend. However, you should never lose your objectivity.
One of the greatest challenges for a football coach?
Time as an almost non-existent factor. You have to take stock every week: Did we win or lose? It’s difficult to make long-term plans in the face of this kind of reality.
What is the most important tool for your work?
Football shoes. I always have just one favourite pair that I wear until they fall apart.
What is your favourite activity in the context of work?
Training on the field.
Good luck and thank you for the interview.