From academy to first team: Fitness coach Nicklas Dietrich

While others are busting a gut to force out a fifth pull-up, Nicklas Dietrich is chatting away doing another 20. The new Hoffenheim fitness coach doesn't just have a good figure at 6'1'' and 13 stone, but also has an impressive knowledge of the profession. We give an insight into one of the new members of Markus Gisdol's coaching staff.

Dietrich moved to football from athletics. Born in Grünstadt, he specialised in the 110-meter hurdles and was Rhineland-Palatinate champion amongst other things. Injuries always set him back however. “That's why I went down the coaching path very early and did my badges,” said the 30-year-old who studied sport science at both Heidelberg and Karlsruhe University after completing his A-levels in Mannheim.

When director for sport and youth development Bernhard Peters began to build-up the achtzehn99 ACADEMY, Dietrich fitted the job profile for the fitness coach perfectly. He was brought to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in 2007 through connections to Germany's hurdles coach Rüdiger Harksen and was responsible for the junior A and B sides. “It was really interesting for me,” said a reminiscent Dietrich. “I learnt a lot from the former first team fitness coach Reiner Schrey but I was also allowed to try out things myself and complete advanced training sessions.”

Key experience in Arizona

The sporting successes, such as the German U17 league title in 2008 and the U19 German Cup win in 2010, are pleasing stops along his career path, but play a secondary role for him. “The real thrill for me is developing football-specific fitness training regimes based on a scientific background and bringing each individual player further along.”

He had a key experience in the summer of 2010 when he was allowed to complete a four-month internship at fitness expert Mark Verstegen's Athletes' Performance Centre in Arizona. “I haven't a clue how many towels I folded,” said Dietrich about the opening stages. He was then allowed to look over the coaches' shoulders as they helped the USA's top sportsmen and women stay fit during their time away from competitive action, before finally leading some group training. A particularly defining moment for him was a conversation with Max Starks. The Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive tackle had already won the Super Bowl twice but told Dietrich: “I would give everything to win the title again.” This attitude and lust for success fascinated Dietrich. “To me, a real sportsman is someone who has already won everything but still works harder than ever to do it again.”

More than just lifting weights and running in a straight line

Dietrich doesn't just want to copy but rather take the important things and build up his own system around them. Sensibly planning a training regime that fits the individual performance level of a player is Dietrich's bread and butter. “Football-specific fitness training is more than just lifting weights and running in a straight line. It's about awareness, anticipation and reaction time. It's particularly important to have a wide range of exercises in your repertoire. It should never become monotonous,” said Dietrich, who moved into a new flat with his girlfriend in Heidelberg a few weeks ago.

Dietrich was recommended after his good work in the academy and was promoted to work with the first team two weeks ago. “There's not too much difference in my daily routine. The juniors have a much narrower timeframe, whereas the first team need to reach a different level and are motivated differently.” And how does the new fitness coach keep fit? “The classical way,” he says. “Running and strength training.” At the moment he can do 30 pull-ups.

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