Wages for early risers

Carsten Bissel only needs a single sentence, exactly 14 words, to get to the heart of what makes HC Erlangen so successful. The fact that the team got off to the best start to the season in the club’s history has a lot to do with coach Raul Alonso, says Bissel. Then the chairman of the Erlangen supervisory board follows with the sentence that probably explains what is behind the success. Alonso gets up at six every day, reveals Bissel: “And if he gets up at five past six, he has a bad conscience.”

That’s what has led to Alonso’s side shaking up the Bundesliga. That’s what Erlangen leaves after the first five games with 8:2 points. And that’s what says a lot about Alonso.

A reminder of a conversation last winter, it’s been a good six months now. Alonso had only been in charge for a few weeks but the first few games under his leadership suggested things could work out between him and the side. Alonso, 43, sat in his office and didn’t want to reveal how long he works every day. It’s been a few hours, he said – but how many, that doesn’t matter. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, after all he decided of his own free will to take over the coaching position.

“I’m careful because I know how fast things can go in sport,” says the chairman of the supervisory board, Carsten Bissel

When Alonso said that, it was February. It’s September now, MT Melsungen is coming to visit this Sunday, and even though Erlangen suffered its first defeat of the season on Thursday evening in Leipzig with 29:32, the first impressions have long been confirmed: Yes, it fits between Raul Alonso and the players . “Team and coach have found each other,” says Bissel. “We’re still a small club, but we manage to achieve success with enthusiasm and unity.” And that despite the fact that Alonso has changed so many things in the Erlangen game, back and forth, that he didn’t do a conventional training camp at the beginning of the pre-season – but three days of theory lessons. What do the rule changes mean for the game? What is required in the cover? And what variants are there in positional attack?

All of this had to be discussed – and it was all discussed. The first weeks of the season showed quite impressively that the players understood what Alonso is all about. Nevertheless, Bissel does not want to join in with all the hymns of praise that are currently being sung in Erlangen. He says: “I’m careful because I know how fast things can go in sport.” However, he also knows that the successes that make the team fly into seventh heaven are anything but a coincidence. They are based on hard work – and on the fact that Raul Alonso probably doesn’t have a bad conscience too often.

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