As a young footballer, compared to others your age who still study or are making their first steps in the workplace, you are always in the thick of it, always under pressure every weekend on the pitch, or during the week on the training ground. Did you ever think you might want to swap the stress of being a professional footballer to be enjoy the “normal” life of a young man?
Oliver Baumann: "No, I would never swap. It was always my dream to play in the Bundesliga and I have always worked towards that. Of course I had to sacrifice some things, but I never regretted it – quite the opposite, actually. You feel the pressure as a pro, but you can also turn that into positive energy, emotions or thoughts. As an example, it’s such an amazing feeling to play in such a big stadium in front of so many people. Our job comes with a lot of stress because we want to be successful and entertain our fans."
As a player, by the time you step on to the pitch, you’ve spent days preparing for the game, have all sorts of tactical instructions in your head, information about your opponents etc. You need to stay focused for 90 minutes and constantly make split-second decision. What are the most stressful situations for you before and during a game?
Baumann: "Before the game, it’s usually the time before I settle into a familiar routine, i.e. before I arrive at the stadium, get changed in the dressing room, the warm-up and preparations before kick-off. That might sound strange, as that time is usually quite calm. During the game is the most stressful for me, to be fired up for the whole game and stay focused and concentrated. I always want to make the best possible decision at the right time. That can be quite stressful."
Many people don’t find a way of coping with the stress of work until later in life. As a footballer you don’t have much time to gather the life experience to have this luxury. What’s your secret for coping, and how did you find it?
Baumann: "By playing many games and constantly repeating the same scenarios in games – and in training too – you gain experience and in time know how your body best copes with the tension and release. After a match, for example, I like to play a bit of PS4 to wind down and chill out a bit. We’re constantly working with our sports psychologist Prof. Dr. Jan Mayer on staying focused – with the help of several apps. On top of that, work on being able to see the pressure positively and to deal with it from there."
You’re a role model for young kids dreaming of a career as a professional. What tips can you give children and teenagers to help them find the right balance between having ambition, which often leads to self-inflicted stress, and having a chilled-out attitude?
Baumann: "A healthy mix helps. I think you should always strive to improve yourself. That involves a lot of discipline. But you can never lose the fun in football, or sport in general. Talent, and also a bit of luck, are other important factors, but above all you have to be ambitious.