In the same way, everyone you meet gives you something of value. From every one of my coaches, I kept good things. One might be good in tactical approaches. Another maybe in personality relations.
Ottmar Hitzfeld is someone I never worked with, but when I started doing my coaching licences I was watching him a lot. He was coach of Bayern Munich before the Swiss national team, and I really admired the way he went about things.
Even at the highest level, with a lot of pressure, he remained the same – calm and composed. And always with big respect for the players and the other coaches.
“Behind the scenes, you can learn a lot. Once you arrive at the top, you don’t have any time for that. You have to perform”
I was 32 when I retired from playing, but I had a plan even from the age of 25 to start coaching. Actually, my first idea was to be a PE teacher because I like to work with people – to help them grow up and develop. This was a big passion for me.
So I knew I wanted to start my coaching career with young players. Players I could develop and give my experiences to.
I was lucky that my last club, Luzern, gave me the opportunity to do that. Straight after I finished playing, I was working with their Under-15s. It was a whole new world to me, because the language that you speak with children of 13 or 14 years of age is not the same as with a professional.
It had always been clear to me that playing and coaching were two different jobs. But in this period, I realised just how much there was to learn. Each day I went home thinking: oh, I know nothing.
That’s why it’s important to have this time to learn. I spent six years coaching in the youth – working my way from the Under-15s to the Under-18s and, finally, the Under-21s. At every level you learn to coach different things: the basics of technique with the youth, then the tactical elements with the Under-21s.
At the same time, I was also trying to learn more about management, leadership and communication. It’s good to do these things while you are not in the focus. Behind the scenes, you can learn a lot.
Once you arrive at the top, you don’t have any time for that. You have to perform.