Building champions, one age group at a time: The Altenburg effect in German hockey

Altenburg, who is currently in Ranchi as the head coach of the German team for the FIH Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, has been associated with the country’s hockey setup for more than a decade.

Published : Jan 14, 2024 09:07 IST , Ranchi - 3 MINS READ

Germany coach Valentin Altenburg.
Germany coach Valentin Altenburg. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Germany coach Valentin Altenburg. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Valentin Altenburg’s name has been associated with the German hockey setup for more than a decade. In this journey, he has coached the age group teams as well as both the senior sides.

By the way, he is just 42 years old.

Currently in Ranchi as the head coach of the German team for the FIH Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, Altenburg explains how taking charge across categories has its own attractiveness and requires a new approach every time. “There is always a big difference from team to team, independent of age, group or gender. Nowadays, we see little bit different playing styles in women’s hockey than in men’s hockey and I find it very interesting how women’s hockey has developed. In the last couple of years, it has become very dynamic, varied combinations and very attractive to watch. Leadership wise and structure wise, it is very similar (to men),” he says.

“Obviously, there is a difference to the youth team because it is more about education and development while a men’s or women’s team is more focused on the results,” he adds.

In 2015, Altenburg was appointed as the head coach of the senior men’s team, the youngest in German Hockey Association’s (DHB) history and he proved the decision right by leading that team to a bronze medal at Rio Olympics in 2016. However, his sudden rise should not come across as a surprise since his love for coaching began when he took his initial steps in the sport.

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“My mom and even my grandmom played hockey which is pretty normal and usual. In Germany, it is a feminine sport in the sense that you give it to the next generation.I started when I was 9-10 years old. The club where I started in Hamburg, we were used to older players teaching and coaching the younger groups as a tradition. I started to coach young kids and I enjoyed it from the beginning. While I continued playing, I used my spare time to coach league teams. That is how I started in hockey and that is also how my coaching career started,” he says with a hint of smile.

Altenburg’s stint with the senior women’s team began two years ago. The side finished fourth at the World Cup in 2022 before winning bronze medal at last year’s European Championship, where gold medallist Dutch team grabbed the automatic qualification spot for Paris Olympics.

For Altenburg, it is not the first time that he is in India for a major assignment. He was in-charge of the senior men’s team during the Hockey World League Finals in Raipur in 2015 and the junior men’s side at the World Cup in Lucknow a year later. During those two years, he also managed Dabang Mumbai in Hockey India League.

The ongoing qualifiers in Ranchi are very important for World No. 5 Germany, which has never missed the Summer Games. It also provides Altenburg the opportunity to move one step closer to something former German coach Markus Weise achieved - winning Olympic medals with both the senior sides.

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