Benjamin Weber

Foto Benjamin Weber

Head

of the Hertha BSC Football Academy

Photo source: City-Press / Hertha BSC

 

What do you do for a living and how did you get into your job?

I am the head of the Hertha BSC Football Academy. From 2000 to 2006 I completed a degree in sports science with a focus on sports economics / sports management at the University of Potsdam. As part of a compulsory internship at NDR, I gained practical experience in the journalistic field and was then employed as a student employee at Hertha BSC in the sporting field for two and a half years, where I was able to gain my first experience. After graduating, I was drawn to sports marketing. In 2007 I returned to Hertha BSC, where I initially worked in marketing and sponsoring. Since 2014, I have been responsible for the next generation in the role of academy director.

 

What are the goals of the Hertha BSC Football Academy and what are your tasks as the director?

I have overall responsibility for the Hertha BSC Football Academy with the core areas of sport, organization and finance. In the academy, 250 children and young people are trained in eleven age groups - from U9 (8 years) to U23 (up to 23 years). About 80 employees take care of the next generation, of which about 30 are permanent employees, the other part is made up of part-time employees, students and volunteers. The aim of the academy is to train and promote talented young athletes on their way to professional football as well as possible. It is equally important for us to accompany the young players at school. Against this background, we have a dual training philosophy consisting of school and sport with three core tasks: school training, sports training and personal development.

 

What competencies and skills should you bring with you as a leader of a soccer academy?

Working with the next generation takes a lot of time, as a large part of the work takes place on the weekend. Of course, enthusiasm for sport, enjoyment of organization, but also the willingness to take on leadership and interest in working with young people are important. Another important aspect is the joy of working in a team: Football is a team sport - and not just on the field. As far as qualification is concerned, a degree with a sports focus is always helpful, but not a mandatory requirement. In addition, depending on the requirements, trainer qualifications can be an advantage.

 

In which points does a degree (e.g. sports science) prepare for your job? What do you learn in practice?

In short: In the course of studies, you learn the tools of the trade for practical use. In practice, it is about applying what you have learned in your studies. From my studies, I took the ability to tackle tasks, structure processes and solve problems. In addition, I learned during my studies to familiarize myself with unfamiliar topics. Even if there were compulsory lectures, which perhaps I was less interested in at the time, dealing with the topics that were dealt with there was very useful for later practice. A practical example: By attending lectures in civil law and public law, one learns a basic understanding of how law actually works.

 

What were the last three things you did at work?

1. I made final arrangements with the coaches for the coming weekend on the occasion of the start of the season in the A and B junior Bundesliga.

2. There was a staff meeting.

3. I have dealt with questions that concern the continuation of the school and sports operations under Corona measures and have dealt with the new regulations of the State of Berlin.

 

Where do you work? Do you usually sit at your desk or do you travel a lot/are you outside a lot (e.g. on the sports field, traveling with the young talents)?

I'm usually half on the road and half at my desk. Due to the corona pandemic, I'm more in Berlin this year. Since the game is only just starting now, I am currently working more at my desk. Otherwise we are regularly on the road with our youth teams abroad. We travel to the UK regularly, but have also been to the USA or China. We have been to Japan with the U12 in the past few years.

When traveling with our youth teams it is about the sporting comparison, but also about the personal development and experiences for our youth players. They should be prepared for the everyday life of a professional player by traveling and learning to be able to achieve sporting performance under travel conditions, but they should also get to know other cultures which will help them develop their personality. A highlight of the last few years was definitely the participation in the UEFA Youth League in the 2018/19 season, when we were able to play games in Poland, Azerbaijan and Spain with our U19s. There were certainly places here that the players and officials might never have seen without football.

 

The academy as a place for youth work: How important are pedagogical skills for your job?

The work of the academy focuses on the compatibility of school and sport. We are not only concerned with the question “Who will make it into professional sport?”, but also with personal development and qualifications for the “normal” job market. That is why we work very closely with various schools. We accompany young people on their way. This requires pedagogical concepts and thus also social and socio-pedagogical skills. Knowledge of pedagogy and didactics from my studies is helpful for my work.

 

To what extent are you involved in the selection and promotion or development of the next generation?

It is my job, in coordination with the club management and my colleagues in the academy management, to bring all the threads together when selecting and promoting young talent. Everyone in the team has their own tasks. For example, there is a scouting department that observes players, analyzes developments and then makes suggestions to the coaches and the sports management. When making the selection, we focus on the Berlin and Brandenburg region. With a few exceptions, the young people living in our boarding school also come from this region.

 

Representing Hertha or working strategically in the background: What determines your everyday professional life more?

In addition to representing and strategic planning, which are both part of my duties, I have to add one more addition: operational work. Here, too, everything is distributed fairly evenly. There are always different phases in a season. If at the moment there is a lot of operational work in the foreground due to the resumption of gaming operations under Corona conditions with numerous agreements with authorities and associations, strategic topics usually determine everyday work in spring, such as budget and budget planning, licensing, personnel issues as well as coordination with the management and the bodies of the association. Representative tasks are added irregularly over the course of the year.

 

What tasks do you do in the team and what tasks are you solely responsible for?

There is no work alone in my everyday work. Whether sport, finance or gaming - I always work with my team in all areas. It wouldn't work without teamwork, that's important to me to emphasize.

 

What are the greatest challenges in managing a junior academy?

I would like to name three major challenges: The greatest challenge for everyone is the compatibility of school and sport. In addition, dealing with often high levels of expectation - the big dreams of young people. Dealing with competition should be mentioned as the third challenge. We also find that digitization is an additional challenge. Children and adolescents nowadays exercise less than they used to, meet less outside to play football and spend a lot more time in front of computers and gaming consoles. We notice that when looking for talented people.

 

What do you love about your job?

What I love about my job is that I accompany people on their way. It's great to travel abroad with our youth teams to tournaments or to see how our young players can make their dreams come true. The moments when the professionals we have accompanied on their way also drop by the office are great. I am thrilled that there is still a connection to the next generation. In addition, it is nice to see that those who do not make it into professional sport use the time in the academy to later get study places and sports scholarships in the USA or to take other professional paths. For example, a former junior player of ours has just started as a physiotherapist after completing his training as a physiotherapist in our HerthaMed medical and rehabilitation center.

 

Your tips for young professionals?

It might sound banal, but if I can give you one tip, it is: Gain your first practical experience early on. It helps to try out different areas in order to think outside the box and find out for yourself what you want. For example, my previous practical experience gave me the certainty that I would like to work closely with the sport.