“My strengths lie in strategic thinking”

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It feels like he was just standing on the pitch just moments ago, but believe it or not that was over two years ago now. A lot has happened since then, not only in terms of sports, but also professionally. Patrick Fabian has changed careers, and our former centre back has now gone upstairs and is part of the club’s management structure. For the past 24 months, he has worked as an assistant to the management team, and now he is the divisional manager of the licensing team of VfL pros. He tells us exclusively how he managed the move from the pitch to the desk and what his new remit looks like. 

Patti, you’re 34 years old and have been continuously active for VfL over the past 22 years now – more than half a lifetime. Not many people manage that. And it must never have been boring either..

Absolutely not. It never was, it never is, and it probably never will be. I’ve been able to make my contribution to VfL’s history, gather a lot of experience as a player on the pitch, and experience highs and lows. But what’s happened in the past five or six years alone, both in sporting terms, including the end of my career, and in terms of the change of role to the functional team, has been enormous.

Ilja Kaenzig says that success can be planned, but not the timing. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely. By working well and sustainably, you increase the likelihood of success. Football is complex, even more so in seasons like the recent ones, where Covid-19 could certainly have an impact on the competition. But the focus must be on what you can influence yourself. The main factor remains work, hard work. And creative minds thinking in the same direction, if possible. Especially when you have a budget that is below what others have. At VfL we have to do more, we have to be faster, more creative, more alert, be planning our next move earlier. I can play my part in that.

How did you make the transition from the playing field to the desk?

Very quickly. I didn’t have much time off between the end of my playing career and my new job as assistant to the management. It took a couple of weeks for me to get really in to it. The days got longer, no comparison to professional life as a player. You had to train, you were physically challenged, and then you had a break. Now it’s all about continuous development, and your head is constantly rattling. My departure from competitive sports came at the right time, I listened to my body, and since then I’ve never had the feeling that I’ve missed out on something because I didn’t add another year. I also enjoy the new job too much for that, it’s a real challenge. I’m glad that I can continue to be active for “our” club, albeit in a different position.

Which brings us to your job profile: You are now moving from assistant to the management to the position of “divisional manager of the licensing team”. What are the tasks and what are the differences?

At the beginning, we deliberately designed it in such a way that I could gain an insight into all areas of the sports operations sector and create certain spaces for myself there. I was present at many events, observing, supporting or even initiating. It was about organising, for example, training camps, friendly matches, but also about implementing the requirements that were placed on us due to the Corona pandemic and the associated hygiene regulations that came. It was about the integration of new signings, it was about having my finger on the pulse of the team. And it was also about scouting tasks. Then there was the regular exchange with Sebastian Schindzielorz. It quickly became clear that my strengths lie in strategic thinking, at a sporting level. We defined parameters to meet the demands of a club at the highest level of German football. In addition to these practical insights, we also worked together to ensure that the theoretical foundation was laid. That’s why I continued my education at the Hamburg “High Performance Sports Institute” and earned the “High Performance Sports Certificate” there. Because we need more good ideas and creativity in the future if we want to continue to be successful.

So in short…

… I will be the person between the management and the licensing department. The task is to bundle communication channels to the sub-areas of medical department, athletics, analysis, diagnostics, material management, to initiate developments and to accompany this process. In general, we all want to work together to drive forward sporting development and take VfL Bochum forward with the resources we have at our disposal.

Can you give an example of that?

The game has become faster and more dynamic, and the demands on players have also increased cognitively. At the same time, players are viewed much more individually.  So the question is how do we meet this challenge? How does that fit in with the club’s idea of the game? There has to be a common thread, from the playing philosophy to the players, who have to be developed accordingly. What do we want to see from our centre back and how do we get it managed so that he can call that up? We ask these questions for each individual area, for example athletics. The answers have to come from the discussion. I think it’s important to give the experts for the individual areas space to do this. These are all processes. If we want to stay in the Bundesliga, we have to face up to these processes and constantly adjust and improve them. I’m happy to help initiate and monitor these things. That’s the only way to achieve sustainability.

That’s the future. The present is the fight to stay in the league. How do you rate our chances?

We want to continue to play in the Bundesliga next year, to continue to be among the elite. If someone had said before the season that we would already have 35 points after 28 match days, beating Bayern and the European Cup contender Hoffenheim twice along the way, I would hardly have believed it. But it is reality and we are rightly where we are now. This shows that you can achieve a lot with a lot of diligence, hard work, creativity and team unity. But we’re not through yet, even if things are looking good at the moment. Based on our performance so far, I’m very confident that we’ll get the points we need.

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