FFF meets Valentin Lange

09 October 2017 Ben Cartwright sport, science, football, soccer, interview, coach, fitness, strength, conditioning

Can you give us some background about yourself regarding your career, experience and development to date? 


Before I found my passion in the high performance world, I actually did an internship in an outdoor company in Austria, where I did my rafting guide license and was an outdoor guide (Rafting, Mountainbike and Climbing) for half a year. This experience made me realise that I wanted to work with people and try to upgrade their lives so they can reach their full potential in whatever their goles might be (climbing a 30 m vertical wall, playing in the first team of a professional football club, etc.).  So I decided to study sports science in Freiburg, where I began to find my passion in performance training. Fortunately during my studies I got the opportunity to complete a mentorship for 6 weeks at ALLOUT Performance Training in Bonn. This experience has built all of my foundation in coaching, communication and programming. After I finished my mentorship I directly looked for opportunities to work with athletes in Freiburg. I gained experience as the S&C coach for a professional woman basketball team and worked at the same time with a youth Icehockey team. When I look back to all of these experiences I made so many mistakes, for example I pushed so many woman of the basketball team to squat, because I thought that everybody should be able to squat a decent amount of weight, without even considering that a lot of them didn’t have the foundation of mobility and stability or even got structural limitations. But every mistake made me and will make me a better coach. 


What is your current role? What does it entail? 


I am currently the assistant performance coach for FC St. Pauli (2. Bundesliga) in Hamburg. I am responsible for the rehab process (planning, programming, training and testing) for all the injured player. I also manage our monitoring data and help in every aspect of managing the performance of our players.  


Can you (very briefly) summarise your approach to developing football fitness: 


In my view “football fitness” entails following aspects: Mental, Stress management, Movement Efficiency, Energy Systems Development, Power development and Sport specific movement skills. My goal is to increase the performance and decrease the likelihood of injury. A really important part, which a lot of coaches overlook, is that at least in the professional senior setting normally these athletes should have got a solid physical foundation. But this just isn’t the way it is, especially in german football. So at the end our focus is not that much on increasing performance, but more on keeping them healthy and available for the squad. 

The starting point is always an evaluation of every player through every physical quality. For every single test, we have set out KPI’s, which provide us with a baseline for every position. Then we will compare the players with the KPI’s and can see which physical quality this player has to improve and what are his strengths which we surely don’t want to lose. At the end it’s the following process: assess, plan, train, reassess.  





What do you feel is the biggest training mistake others make in developing football fitness? 


The biggest mistake I see in football fitness is that a lot of times it’s more about quantity than quality. Movement quality/efficiency builds the foundation of every other physical quality and you have to take the time to train for it. I have to phrase Gray Cook: “First move well, than move often.” And this isn’t just about the physical training, it’s also about football training. A lot of coaches are still in the group who say more training equals better outcome. But instead we have to think more about better training equals better outcome. Before any drill and any exercise is incorporated into training you have to ask yourself what the goal of this drill/exercise is. Is it the right drill/exercise for the right duration, for the right time, with the right amount of rest and for the right athletes? 


What recovery methods do you use with your players? 


After high load training days we have got a regeneration timeslot with the whole team. There we normally will do a diaphragmic breathing exercise, 5-10 min. of foam rolling and 5-10 min. of stretching. After this the players have got different options to chose from: 

a) Regenerative bike for 10-15 min. 

b) Massage 

c) Contrast Shower 

d) Fuel (Protein Shake, Nuts, etc.) 

Directly after the game we offer different options for hydration and a soup. Obligatory is a regenerative bike ride for 10 min. and cold water bath for 6-10 min at 10-15°. The day after we have got a regenerative session for the players who played more than 60 min. This entails 20 min. of foam rolling and stretching, 20 min. of a regenerative run, 5 min. bodyweight movement patterns and coordination ladder, and then some extensive tempo runs (6 x 80m @ 70% max. speed / 160m walking).  


What are three areas that your opinion has changed recently? 


1) Tempo Runs as a better option than steady state runs for aerobic capacity 


2) Not striving for perfect technique all the time. When athletes are learning a new movement they need some time to find the right solution for themselves. Variability in motor control is normal and should be achieved with different constraints (taks, environment, performer).  


3) Not a specific thing I have changed, but something I feel is really difficult for me and many other coaches. Keep it simple stupid. I have to constantly remind me about this. Surely Mike Boyle is a genius in this regard, and everybody can learn so much of him. 

Massive thank you to Valentin for taking the time to speak to us and best of luck to St Pauli for the season ahead.