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Sports psychologist

New arrival Laux aims to optimise mental ability

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It would be tempting to link the presence of comfortable couches in the relaxation areas of the new performance centre with the arrival of Bayern’s first full-time sports psychologist, but the reality is rather different. “People connect psychology with couches and recalling your childhood, but sports psychology has nothing to do with that,“ Philipp Laux informed

The 35-year-old, who formerly kept goal in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund and SSV Ulm, has joined Jürgen Klinsmann’s coaching staff as a mental trainer. “I’m not a therapist, I’m a coach,“ he firmly insists.

Mental preparation

In common with the rest of the coaching team, Laux’s efforts are aimed at optimising performance. “Physical training helps tactical and technical development, and mental training similarly helps in competitive situations,“ Laux explains. One such area is pre-match preparation, where players might visualise positive moments from previous games, or imagine their reaction to incidents which may occur in the forthcoming contest.

Laux has personally benefited from such techniques. He first became interested in the field of sports psychology in 1998, when Dr. Hans-Dieter Hermann, attached to the German national team for several years now, addressed the Ulm players on the subject of mental preparation. “I was fascinated,” Laux recalls, “I consulted him a lot after that during my playing career.”

Shedding reservations

A goalkeeper’s attitude to a match is by definition fundamentally different and more complex compared to outfield players. “You ask yourself: how should I approach this game? How do I stay focused even when there’s not a lot happening around my goal?“ explains Laux, something of a pioneer in using the services of a psychologist back then.

“The players only really accepted it once Jürgen Klinsmann brought Hans-Dieter Hermann into the Germany set-up,“ the new arrival continues, recalling the strong reservations held by many stars until relatively recently. His status as a former pro is an advantage in his new career. “The players quickly notice they’re sitting opposite an athlete who usually knows what they’re talking about.”

Head of player development

At the moment, the 35-year-old is busy with a mutual get-to-know you process at the club. “Next week, I’ll give a brief presentation so the players know what sports psychology actually is,“ he explains, noting that he will not be there solely for the times when players run into difficulties. “How can I remain utterly motivated? Where am I now, and where do I want to be? It’s important the players review their efforts and continue to develop their individual personalities.“

Personality lies at the heart of Laux’ second role as head of player development. For example, he will be responsible for language courses, or inviting elite athletes from other disciplines to address the squad. The goal is to help the players develop a wider perspective beyond the confines of professional football, the former keeper explains.

On and off the field

Development on and away from the field of play is one of the priorities set by Jürgen Klinsmann, who is expecting great things from the first psychologist at the club: “Philipp will be a significant help to us in assisting the players to improve and develop as individuals.“ The lavish new couches in the performance centre will have no part to play in that process.