ZECKE NEUENDORF, THE MOST RELAXED HERTHANER

As both a player and now a coach, Zecke Neuendorf has never had problems in dealing with pressure. He has several ways of ensuring that he won’t be stressed out ahead of the first game of the new season, something that every Herthaner could learn from. 

The new season is almost here, which means a lot of pressure. Do you know what it’s like to be under stress?

Yes, I think everybody knows what stress is like, however, I think sometimes people think they are suffering from stress when they actually aren’t. Some people think and deal with things differently to me and I’m not responsible for the behaviour of everyone. My attitude allows me to go through life in a relaxed way.

So that means you don’t get stressed out when you are under pressure?

No. 

Not all? Never?

Nope. One example is when we have an away game there are rules set by the DFB that we have follow, such as when and where you have to play. You’re not allowed any delays. If we think that we are going to turn up late, then there are some colleagues who get stressed out on the way. I, on the other hand, just say I can’t change things; it’d be great if we could just fly over the cars, but we can’t. It is what it is. In that kind of situation, I don’t get stressed out. I’m just trying to think of a situation now where I do feel stress.

If you were to say to me that I need to write down ten things quickly, but I only have a minute to do it, then I would say you are the one stressed as you need it so quickly, and I’m not any under stress myself!

[Translate to English:] Zecke war zuvor Trainer der U17.

People often feel under pressure when they are not living up to expectations. Do you know that feeling?

No, because I am a communicator. I like to speak about everything, which can be a good thing and a bad thing sometimes. If there’s ever something I don’t know, I’ll just go up to somebody about it. I don’t take shame in asking somebody for help. If somebody else is better at something, I’ll just ask them. I’m a team player. I would probably suffer from stress if I tried to do things on my own or if I had the feeling that I wasn’t doing somebody justice. I try to do everything to the best of my ability in my life, both at Hertha and in my private life. Working at Hertha isn’t work for me really. I played here and now I coach the young lads who are trying to become professionals. I don’t think I’m the right person to ask about being stressed out, as I don’t feel like I’m under any here at Hertha. There’s no positive stress, because there’s just simply no stress.

Nowadays with mobile phones everyone is effectively reachable at any time. To what extent does that add to pressure people are under?

Let’s look at my WhatsApp. I’ve got 130-140 messages that I’ve not opened yet. And you know what? Some people would get stressed out by that, but not me. I’ll read them when I get the time and that can sometimes take a while. I’ve got 79 unread emails. Whenever I look at my phone, I always have some missed calls. You know why? Because I always have my phone on silent and if I’m in meetings I turn it around so I can’t see if somebody is trying to ring me. If I had it facing me and saw the incoming call or message, I would react to it. I’m not a liar and I would have a guilty conscience if I did see it. 

I ring people back when I’m driving home, starting from the top of the call list. When I park up, I tell them we’ll speak again tomorrow and I’ll ring back the next morning. 

How would somebody get hold of you in an important situation?

I can be reached if I need to be. People who know me will write something like ‘really important’ or ‘SOS’. Some of my friends say to me that if they were lying on the street and needing my help, I would only react three days later. I reply to them saying that it wouldn’t take me three days and that I would probably react the next morning, but how I should help them anyway as I’m not a fireman or a doctor. I prioritise things massively. 

You are the U23s coach now – how do you deal with stress as a coach in the youth academy?

I’m lucky to be able to coach the best players in Berlin. It’s not like I’m their father, just their coach. However, after speaking with their parents, I get the feeling that I am in a role where the lads listen to what I say is good and bad for them.  

Another important aspect is ‘not begrudging’ people and fair play. Players should be happy that others are having success or scoring goals and playing well. That’s how we want our players to behave. I think our players perhaps are under less stress than other team’s players in similar situations. This is particularly important when it comes to a game. There is a lot more pressure then, even for me, but I don’t think that’s necessarily linked to stress.

[Translate to English:] Die Ruhe selbst: Zecke Neuendorf.

What does it feel like to lose when your team is expected to win a game?

At one point in my life I just learned that you can’t do it anything about it once it’s over. One person likes blue, one red, one white, one black, one chocolate, one vanilla. You can ask four people a question and get five different answers. The people who I report to at the club, work in the academy here and we regularly speak to one another. When we sit down together on a Monday we will speak about the game at the weekend. If we already know that three players are injured and our opponents are really good then we all know we probably won’t win easily.

And how do you get that message out to people on the outside?

To be honest, I don’t have the time to talk to all the people that say I should be winning games. I’d rather take time to work with the lads. I have to try and make sure that I don’t just always say negative things to them. You have to accept that we are working in sport and that our opponents are also top sports players. It’s not like everybody is worse than us just because we’re all from Berlin. 

I would feel stressed if I wasn’t prepared to give everything for the lads, but I do, so I can’t blame myself really. I am always there for them and can be contacted even if my phone is on silent. We work very closely together so there’s nobody from the outside who can cause me stress. 

Maybe my playing career has had an impact on this as I experienced a lot, but football was always an event and not stressful for me. 

Do you think younger players are under more pressure and stress than before?

Yes, definitely. Sometimes when speaking with the parents, I notice how fixated they are on their son becoming a professional. I always tell them: “Stop, you can’t influence that.”

It was different for me. It was never a big deal that I played for Hertha. This attitude would definitely help younger players these days. They have such a heavy workload and are subsequently under so much stress. They get up at 6am, go to school and then train at 10am, have lunch at 12, go back to school between 1-4, train again at 5:30pm, get changed and then go home. Then they can have dinner and go to sleep. They have an extremely regulated daily routine, which means they don’t have a normal childhood. Nevertheless, kids are driven too hard in all of walks life these days, even if they are not sports players. They get stressed because they have to deal with so many things. I never had this pressure; I just played football because I enjoyed it. 

You seem to be really relaxed, can you pass that down onto the lads?

I can definitely pass down my general relaxed nature. That also depends on the whole team itself. The best time is when everyone around the team is relaxed. Obviously sometimes things will get hectic, but that’s not stress. If one of the lads is under pressure before a game because they can’t put their socks on quick enough, we just say take your time, they can’t start without us. This is how to relax the whole squad. I’m never angry if someone turns up five minutes late. They have things on all day long, so they can just start them five minutes later. 

What are your tips for staying as relaxed as you are?

If you see me on the pitch, I don’t look very relaxed. Sometimes I get told to calm down. I’m not stressed though; I’m just in my own kind of tunnel. If I gave three tips, they would be: 

1. Don’t take everything and everybody so seriously, especially yourself.

2. Listen. I had to learn to do this. This way, you learn about other people’s points of views. That can take a lot of stress away from you. 

3. Honesty. There’s nothing to stress over if you are just honest. I live like this and things are good for me. 

[Translate to English:]

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