As we were talking to a jumping coach for "Behind the scenes with…" last week, it seems quite natural to now get the "other" Nordic Combined perspective, the one focussed on the cross-country part. And who better to ask then German cross-country coach Holger Bauroth who actually spent all of his active and coaching career in cross-country before changing to Nordic Combined only three years ago. Since then, he has made quite an impact on the team, helping Eric Frenzel win his overall and World Champion title in Val di Fiemme last season, as well as his previous title from Oslo. Not to forget the strong performance of the whole German team last season, of course.
Holger, first things first. What exactly are your duties and responsibilities as a cross-country coach?
Holger Bauroth: To sum it up into one sentence: I have to make the boys fast. Of course this is actually a little deeper than it sounds now. We are doing summer training, endurance training, technique training which is in focus a lot and we try to find out what will be in store for the boys in the upcoming years and try to set the course for that as early as now.
How does the synergy between the coaching staff for ski jumping and for cross-country actually work in a team?
Bauroth: By establishing my position as a cross-country expert, we tried to find some extra synergies. It is mainly, but not only about making the athletes strong in the cross-country part but by creating another coaching position in the team, the people responsible for the jumping training are getting more help. I can take over the basic work and exercises so they have more time to focus on the jumping-specific parts. And of course, they don't have to worry about the cross-country part at all.
Nordic Combined is special for you because…?
Bauroth: You have to "turn much smaller wheels", to fine tune way more than in cross-country. As an, well you could say, external person who never had anything to do with Nordic Combined before, I had to learn everything from zero, especially dealing with the extreme polarity of the two parts. This is really immensely interesting.
Speaking of joining as an external person, what have you been doing before you started coaching in Nordic Combined?
Bauroth: I graduated from the university of Leipzig in 1990 as "Diplomsportlehrer" and from 1995 until 2003 I worked as a coach in my home club of Hirschau. In 2003, the German Ski Federation contacted me and wanted me to work as a cross-country coach at the Olympic training facility in Oberwiesenthal. Among other things I was with Rene Sommerfeldt in the season of his overall win at that time. Until Torino 2006, I trained the A-team in Saxony and until 2010, I was responsible for tasks in the youth sector: B-team, C-team and D-team. And since then, I have been with Nordic Combined.
How did that come to be, actually?
Bauroth: I am not sure, probably Horst Hüttel (author's note: the Sports Director for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in the German Ski Federation) has seen me and my hairstyle and decided: "Oh, that's a guy we definitely need in Nordic Combined!" (laughs)
On a more serious note: I think that in a sport as contrary as Nordic Combined, it is extremely important to make sure that, if you get external help, this person has to fit into the team. At the end of the day, you have to earn more than you invest. So I don't think there were any more candidates who fit this whole construct age-wise but also from a "haptic" perspective, as a person. You have to be able to blend in. Of course, everybody wants to push his discipline. But it's not important that you're discipline delivers good results, the whole entity, the combination has to work. This can also mean to cut back on your work. Sometimes, you have to realise you can't do more at this moment because if not, you'll knock more things over with your backside than you were able to build up with your hands before.
What is it that you like most about your job?
Bauroth: Can I say: to get inside into the warmth?? No, I can't say that! (laughs) I like days as last weekend even if they are not always crowned by absolute success. But to see the guys do amazing races also from not so promising positions, still achieve a top 5 cross-country time from rank 734! These are the little happy moments. Of course, podium places are the cherry on top but I like it most when something happens and moves forward over the year on a basic level. You can't measure that on one result or one competition. This is setting the course for the future, in the direction I would like it to go.
What was the best moment you had in your coaching career so far?
Bauroth: The World Championships with Effe (author's note: Eric Frenzel) was big. That was a lot of fun for me. But I also enjoy a good round of golf with Hermann Weinbuch! (laughs) There are countless things. Winning a team event after such a long time in Sochi, for example. These things are amazing.
If you had one thing you could change about Nordic Combined, what would it be?
Bauroth: (without hesitation) Indoor jumping hills! Fairer competitions. I always like to see the best athlete win and not the one who was lucky with the conditions. But for sure, this is something we can only aspire to and never ensure 100% as it is an outdoor sport.
What is your goal/wish for this season?
Bauroth: The most important wish is that everybody gets through the season without injuries. And of course two medals in Sochi would be awesome. But in general, I just want thrilling competitions. We would like to be among the top athletes, for sure, but it does not have to be a German victory all the time. If people say at the end of the day: "What an amazing race!!", that is what I want for this season!