The demanding double-header on Wednesday was followed by the traditional team evening. Following a quiz organised by athletics coach Alexander Ulbricht, which was won at a canter by a team including Kolbein Finnssonn, Steven Rupprecht, Taylan Duman, Marco Rente and Lars Bünning, the players, coaches and staff could enjoy their evening in the knowledge that no training was scheduled for Thursday.
With half of the team embarking on a cultural expedition to explore the surrounding area, several players making their way to the castle in the small city and the rest relaxing in their rooms, the staff had the day off. No washing to be done, no treatments to be given. We used the opportunity to spend some time with the team behind the team.
What does a physiotherapist actually do? Markus Langer, who has been at Borussia Dortmund since 2016, describes his job as follows: "We have several responsibilities. It starts with the preparation of the individual sessions. Then there's the treatment of the individual players, plus the things we do during training sessions too. For example, for individual exercises we'll sometimes play the balls back, provide and label the water for the lads, etc. And that's important for such a large group, because it ensures the lads only drink from their bottles and don't spread any colds among themselves." His colleague Daniel Zollinski, at BVB since 2018, added: "That's part of the preventative work, especially as we need to be on location anyway in case a player gets injured or requires prompt treatment."
Otherwise, the duo are always on hand to lend the lads an ear; they are frequently the first point of contact and are trusted by the players. "The working day begins after breakfast; that's when the first treatments take place, although that tends to be in exceptional cases only. We then prepare our iceboxes and pack the things we need," said Langer. "For us, the time before training is 'tape time'; that's when the lads can pick up their tapes," explained Zollinski. The pair then supervise the training session before returning to the hotel. Necessary treatments are conducted, then it's off for a group lunch. "Then the procedures from the morning are repeated before it's time for the second training session," said Zollinski. Markus Langer describes the following hours as such: "After the evening meal, the lads get their treatment; there's a schedule for this hanging up that they sign up for. The day ends for us around 22:00 CET."
In addition to Langer and Zollinski, Paul Jankowski and Harald Völkel are responsible for the team too. The two staff members have been working for the U23s for years – in eras when they were named 'BVB Amateurs' and later 'BVB II'. Both are part of the furniture at the club. Harald "Harry" Völkel has been working for the BVB reserves since 1989. "Back then I was a referee supervisor. But I've now been in full-time employment with BVB for a good 10 years." Between 1980 and 1985, he even played for BVB Amateurs at regional level. "It's obviously all much, much more professional nowadays. Back then, the lads used to have a beer after training. That's no longer possible now, as everything is much more energy-sapping and intense than it was then," said Völkel of the differences between now and then.
"In the 1990s, the lads only had two or three training sessions per week. Nowadays, we're out on the training pitch six or seven days a week," added Jankowski. Paul Jankowski has lots of stories to tell about former training camps too given that he has now been part of more than 20 of them. He has a been a member of Borussia Dortmund since 1951, played for BVB in his youth and also represented the amateurs in the 1960s. "Actually, the training camps aren't all that different; you're pretty much only at the hotel and the training ground. The people were nice and friendly everywhere and we behaved ourselves respectably everywhere too." Back then there were only a few young players from the academy in the team; the rest came from other clubs and already had some experience under their belts.
"I get along superbly well with the young players and they do with me too," said Jankowski. "I sometimes feel like a father figure or a big brother. The lads chat with me very often and they trust me; that makes me really proud," said Völkel as he described his responsibilities, which primarily consists of tasks such as taking care of the players' washing, pumping up the balls and preparing/overseeing the training sessions themselves. "Once upon a time I used to do everything alone, but then I was joined by Harry 10 years ago," Jankowski said.
On one occasion, Jankowski wanted to skip a training camp. But coach Horst Köppel sought him out to persuade him otherwise. "Paul, you simply have to come!" Harry, meanwhile, is pleased with the direction in which life has taken him. "I'm a Borusse. I always wanted to play for this team. I didn't make it as a player. That's why I'm happy that I've been able to make my hobby my job. I always say: 'When you go to work in the mornings with a smile on your face, then you know you got things right!'"