Frank Schmidt faces an uphill task as he guides Heidenheim to their debut Bundesliga experience. All eyes will be on him. He writes in Unkaputtbar (unbreakable) about his life, football and Heidenheim. Schmidt claims he is not a bookworm. Rather, his knowledge is based on the relationship to his wife, kids, nature and life. Adding that he learns from observation and after thought.
You might ask, who is Frank Schmidt? Schmidt has been the coach of Heidenheim since 2007, taking the team from the lowest rungs of the league to the Bundesliga. He is modest about his achievements. Schmidt’s longevity in Heidenheim is a welcome relief in modern-day football where coaches are recycled faster than the speed of light.
Schmidt delineates in the book in ticker form, his journey from humble beginnings in Giengen, about eleven kilometers from Heidenheim to stardom. The road was thorny and arduous, but he survived.
Born to coach
Schmidt attended Robert Bosch high school in Giengen. He was eleven years old when he registered his school in a tournament through acts of subterfuge. They made him to coach the team. And the school team won the tournament. Schmidt’s sport teacher prophesied to him, “you would be as coach more successful than as a player.”
The paths of Schmidt as a player and Holger Sanwald crossed, who was the volunteer head of Heidenheim in 2003.
Sanwald asked Schmidt in 2007 if he could be the interim coach of Heidenheim for two weeks while they searched for a permanent coach. Interestingly, the interim coach became permanent. Because Schmidt won games after games.
The key component of Schmidt’s repertoire as coach is communication. He can sell his ideas to the players and listen to them, too. Through heuristics and gut feelings, he has created a credible coaching style. He is a resilient coach and knows how to face the litmus test all the time and still turn successful. No wonder he calls himself unbreakable.
A decade after Schmidt was in charge of Heidenheim, the team faced a crisis in division two. The team began a losing streak. Pundits and the media numbered Schmidt’s days in charge of Heidenheim.
Schmidt came up with a novel idea. In order to openly discuss what was hindering the team and what could be improved, Schmidt called the 40 man staff and players to the dressing room at Voith arena. When it was Holger Sanwald’s turn to speak, he made it clear that before Schmidt goes, he would make sure that the others leave first, and if anybody questions it, he should leave immediately! There was a paradigm shift. The next match against Nuremberg at home, Heidenheim won 1-0.
The synergy between Schmidt and Sanwald is immense. Both understand each other deeply and compliments each other’s strength.
Diary of events
Unkaputtbar did not fail to chronicle Schmidt’s football playing career as an attacker, who represented Germany in youth tournaments.
He was converted to a defensive player by Peter Gebele, coach of Nuremberg’s second team.
Sometime in 1994, Schmidt played for TSV Vestenbergsgreuth against Bayern Munich in German FA cup. It was a David versus Goliath moment. On the sideline for Bayern Munich was Giovanni Trapattoni as coach, and the big stars like Dietmar Hamann, Lothar Matthaeus, Mehmet Scholl, Jorginho, Oliver Kahn, among others. Although Schmidt is a fan of Bayern Munich, his team beat Bayern 1-0 and it created a sensation.
Solid family base
Schmidt could draw strength from wife and parents who sacrificed their time and effort to assist him. The wife is a successful nurse and they have two daughters.
The secret of Heidenheim
Heidenheim’s rise to the top is because of the indefatigable synergy between players and staff. At every stage of the campaign to remain in the top flight, the coach may iterate his plans with hundred percent loyalty from all and sundry.
The players and coach at the beginning of the season have a written agreement, where it states in black and white the goals and aspiration of each player. It leads to clarity and a sense of purpose. If both sides treat each other with respect, what could go wrong? The mindset that problems are not intractable is deeply rooted in the team. The result is trust.
Schmidt has a contract with Heidenheim until 2027. Already, he is like a Methuselah in the business of coaching. I wish him nothing but luck in the Bundesliga!