Friday, October 22, 2010

Exclusive interview with German coach Andreas Barthel: Basketball IQ and discipline make the difference!

Andreas Barthel is the emerging star of coaching in Germany. At only 25 he has been named the assistant coach of the Webmoebel Baskets Paderborn in the Beko Basketball Bundesliga (BBL). He is also the assistant coach of the U19 team and the head coach of the Paderborn second team who plays the Regional League. In the 2008/2009 season, Andreas Barthel had a great experience in the United States, being part of the Harker School basketball staff of the West Bay League (Central Coast Section), working both with Boys and Girls Varsity.

Hey Andreas, tell our readers a little bit about you and when did you decide to become a coach.

I grew up in a part of Germany without good basketball programs around and a small number of experienced coaches. Most of the basketball techniques I had to teach by myself, as well as the coaching knowledge. A career as a player was never an option for me. At the age of 19, I dedicated myself completely to coaching. I never had to decide, should I do it or not. Coaching basketball is my profession, my love, my life and already was when I was younger.

We know you had an amazing experience in the US. Was the stay overseas successful?

More than successful. Our overall season record was 24-8 and we entered the Top 15 of the Central Coast Section for the first time in school history. Not the easiest thing with so much basketball powerhouses around in the Bay Area. Finally our season came to an end with a narrow defeat in the CCS Quaterfinals against the later Section Winner Menlo School. One of our players became part of the All-Time Top 20 Scoring list of the State California, scoring more than 1.500 points in 4 years High School Varsity Basketball.
Besides all these facts and stats we had great team chemistry and an outstanding time together. For me personally, I had an awesome time getting to know the American way of teaching, playing and most important living Basketball. Especially the two coaches I worked with, Butch Keller (4 times State Championship Winner) and Jeremiah Brewer inspired me a lot and I'm really thankful that they gave me the opportunity to become part of their program. We are still in contact and one of them just visited me over the summer in Germany.

Which are the main differences between the American basketball and the European one. Did you notice a different approach and organization at any level?

I can just compare the American basketball with the German one and I think there are three big differences.

As you know, the organization of Youth Sports in the United States is completely different in comparison to the German system. It's not just different, it's way more professional. I had the same responsibilities in a High School Basketball Program as in a Men's Pro Basketball organization in Germany. That includes everything. Daily practises with the team and Individuals, Athletic training, scouting opponents, video analysis, reviews.

Athleticism is a big factor in the American game. They start lifting weights years before a German kid even has been looking into a weight room. That builds up a strong advantage on the physical side. When you feel strong and are able to use your body you feel confident. And if you feel confident you build up an advantage on the psychological side too. On this way you're able to dominate against opponents.

The status of sports in society:
Sports in the United States are like a social glue. It's a strong medium to transport social values like teamwork, self-discipline and persistence. I had the feeling that everyone is involved in it. Young and old, either as a participant, fan or spectator.

Which is the basketball you like the most. Can you describe it, even giving us some of your technical rules to success? Maybe you have a top level coach who particularly inspired you as a young coach.

In my eyes all starts with great team defense and a winning effort on this side of the court where five guys work together without having the ball in their hands. That's the first step to accomplish success, joy and team spirit. On the offensive end, I prefer a deliberate style of playing the game, where basketball IQ and discipline make the difference and not just the level of athleticism.  In the end it all comes down to the "Willingness to win". Losing is not acceptable, but you should always remember that winning a game isn't everything in life!
For me as a coach, it's very important that I have a dream and goals. You have to have a vision how you want to let your team play and have to teach it with positive passion. Believe in it and make others do the same. I never had just one particular coach that inspired me. I mean, there are so many different types of coaching and playing philosophies and so many coaches using some of them. The ultimate about inspiration is how coaches teach their philosophy, no matter what it is.

What is your next step for a career?

Right now I am really happy with my situation in Paderborn. We have a really young team with a lot of good guys that work hard every day in practise to improve individually and as a group. I feel good about being part of a Pro Basketball organization and one of the top Youth Basketball Programs in Germany and I'm looking forward to a successful season.
During off-season I plan on going back to the States and coach at College Basketball Camps. There are several options for me and it's always good to get in touch with young players, coaches and different basketball mindsets from all around the world.
For me basketball is like a journey. I don't know exactly where the journey is going to come to an end, but that's not the important thing about it. You should always be thankful to be in a position of doing what you love and having the chance to inspire others, no matter where it is or on which level.

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