Sebastian Rass conducted an interview with the long-time NLZ director of Kickers Offenbach, Günter Stiebig.The main topics discussed included successful youth development and what it takes to become a professional. S.R.: Günter, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about football. You were NLZ director at Kickers Offenbach for more than five and a half years. That means you’re an absolute expert on how young people can make it as professional football players. What was the one thing you paid special attention to when you brought players to the NLZ? G.S.: The first thing is to enjoy the sport. But just having fun is not enough. As before, it’s the basics that you have to bring along: the will to learn, the diligence to learn, and the willingness to deal with defeats. Because the journey isn’t always sunny, it rains sometimes too. The most important thing is to have the right attitude toward football. Let me give you an example. During my time at Kickers Offenbach, Sebastian Rode was a youth player with us. Sebastian was always very, very diligent in training and extremely ambitious in pursuing all his goals. Despite many injuries, such as a torn cruciate ligament, he made it to the pros while finishing his high school diploma. He never lost sight of his goals, even if it wasn’t always easy. He still managed to arrive and gain a foothold in big-time football. Sebastian Rode’s example demonstrates the need for patience and persistence when working toward your goals. You can’t back out too early and then try to find a new challenge at a new club. Because then you start again from zero. But rather, where you are, you have to break through, assert yourself, and establish yourself. S.R.: In the media, the word talent is a popular attribute for a very good young player. Was Sebastian Rode a talent that stood out when he came to you? G.S.: Sebastian certainly brought a lot of basics with him that belong to a talented player. But there were many players on his teams who had as much talent or even more than he did. But they lacked an open attitude, discipline, organization, and respect. In general, the characteristics that I have already mentioned. Sebastian, on the other hand, was a prime example when it came to unbridled will and diligence to learn. He was always ready to invest a lot. He also effectively demonstrated how to deal with setbacks and how they can be handled. Still, you have to stick to your goals, but you can only achieve those goals through diligence. You have to work hard for all that and Sebastian has shown that. He demonstrated this impressively, not least in the Euro League final. S.R.: Now you were in Offenbach because of the regional location in easy competition with Eintracht Frankfurt. How did you convince your players to stay with you and not go to the supposedly great Eintracht too early? G.S.: We have simply always tried to give everyone the opportunity to grow, mature, and develop with us without making it immediately important to win any titles. We gave the players time. We’ve always been about developing players, developing them in their skills and abilities. And then later, when they made their way with us, it was clear that at some point they would go to the club whose name I’m not allowed to say. And that was also proof for us that our work is good. When players who have trained with us later become professionals or, even better, have a foothold in professional football. So it was always important for us to show that we can develop players and prepare them for the things that may come their way. In Offenbach, that was a tough school, especially for me. Because these basics that I mentioned earlier have always been very important to me. Respect, organization, and discipline are the most important things you need to move forward. The boys simply mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that if I don’t make it at club A, then I’ll go to club B and if it doesn’t work out there, then I’ll go to C. No, I first have to assert myself as far as possible where I’m located. And when the journey is over for you there, because the division is no longer the highest and I can no longer improve, only then do I change. But unfortunately, the parents often interfere too much, so that they part ways much too early. That also has to be said very clearly. S.R.: What distinguished your communication with parents at Kickers Offenbach? G.S.: We were always very open, direct, and honest. Of course, we also had parents who saw their own child much better than the coaches. They then approached us with demands along the lines of, “If my son doesn’t play there, we’re leaving!” And we in Offenbach then said, “Well, if that’s the case, then you’ll just have to try somewhere else. We can offer what we offer, and if here with us is not the place where you think you’re going to get what you want, then you’ll just have to leave.” With one particular player whom I’m thinking of right now, after such a conversation, he ended up staying with us for four more years. S.R.: And how did his path continue then? G.S.: He actually made it all the way to the amateur top division and regional league. He developed really well. So it wasn’t wrong for him to stay. S.R.: If you could give three pieces of advice to a young, ambitious football player on his way to professional football. What are the three most important things he needs to bring with him to have a chance of achieving his goal of becoming a professional football player? G.S.: Clearly diligence, patience, and discipline. These are the basics that help you achieve the goals you set for yourself. S.R.: Thank you Günter for your time. I hope our guys take your words to heart. Getting tips like this from experts like you are worth their weight in gold. Thank you very much. G.S.: Thanks, too, and I’d love to see the guys follow up on that.