What's your game plan?
The right-winger needs to be a high flyer if he wants to be a world-class handball player. Launching into the goal area, netting the ball and skilfully negotiating what could be a rough landing. These parallels can’t be drawn for Patrick Groetzki’s life off the court, however. His feet are firmly on the ground, he’s highly professional and shows no sign whatsoever of a rough landing. Picked for his promising talent, the German national handball player is now a leading player, with a game plan that goes far beyond handball.
This is Patrick Groetzki’s game plan.
You are hailed as one of the most talented German handball players. Is being called ‘talented’ something you move beyond at some point in your career?
You need talent to be able to play handball at world-class level. But I’m a few years too old now and have been in the game too long (I’m now in my ninth – soon to be tenth – season in the first German handball league) to be called ‘talented’ in the way a team understands this term. At some point you stop thinking of yourself as such. To me, being called ‘talented’ seems a bit like you’re being protected from the outside. And I haven’t needed that for a long time.
As the vice captain I now have a different role within my team. The way I think and act on the court are different. Even though the decision to take charge at crucial moments has nothing to do with age, I believe that experience changes us. The experience you gain from positive and negative situations gives your self-confidence an enormous boost. Your body language and presence mature and you’re capable of supporting your teammates on a completely different level. You give helpful little tips and imbue your teammates with the same sense of calm you have on the court. These are skills you don’t develop until later on in your career.
Your talent doesn’t just lie on the handball court, however, but also in the lecture theatre, because you’re a professional handball player and a media management student at the same time. Sounds like a tough programme. Is it a blessing or a curse?
A blessing! It’s really important for us handball players in particular to have something lined up for our career after professional sports. One or two of us will carry on in handball clubs, of course, but seeing as there are only 18 national league clubs, the number of jobs available is limited. Although we earn a good wage during our career, it’s still not enough to for us to sit back and take it easy afterwards or go off travelling never to return – which is what most people dream of their entire lives.
Apart from that, we as handball players are no less prone to injury than any other professional athlete. It could happen to any of us at any time, and then you’d be left standing there with nothing. That’s why I decided to keep my options open. That being said, handball still comes first, no question about it, and then my degree. If handball were to suffer as a result of my studies I’d have to rethink a few things, but so far I’ve managed to juggle everything well.
I don’t have a hard and fast plan for my career after handball. If things go well, I can play for another 10 years yet, by which point my ideas for a second career might have changed completely. Right now, for example, I can’t imagine becoming a coach. I think it would be good for me to do something else entirely, get out of the day-to-day handball business. After all, it is something I’ll have being doing my whole life by then. And as for everything else, I’ll just wait and see what happens. Perhaps I’ll even surprise myself somehow.
You’re often on the road because of training, away games and trips with the national team. You must be a master of studying on the go?! How do you make good use of your time when travelling?
By sleeping (laughs). I don’t limit myself to studying 100% of the time on journeys, but I do always have learning material with me. It’s good for my mind, too. I have phases where I study more and phases where I study less. When you’re on the road so much, you get used to being able to switch off on the bus or the plane and to concentrating fully on what’s ahead of you without letting yourself get distracted – even when the people around you are playing punk music. Particularly on our bus (laughs). Over time, you just learn to focus on the things that are important. But if all else fails, large headphones come in very handy.
Does intense training influence your mental performance capabilities?
Yes, I think it does – positively. I feel really good after wearing myself out during an intense training session. Even though I’m exhausted, I feel completely satisfied, because I know that I put my time to good use rather than just wasting it somehow. Hard training is the motivation I use for everything else in my life. The first thing I do after training is eat, and then I don’t have any problem fitting in some study too.