The Power of the Alps

The players from FSV Mainz 05 spent the night in these tents at 2700 metres. Coach Martin Schmidt gave his team a dose of the Belalp spirit.

Interview: Monique Ryser

Born and bred in Upper Valais, now a successful coach and exceptional motivator: Martin Schmidt, coach of the German Bundesliga football team FSV Mainz 05, took his protégés to the limits with snowshoe hikes and winter camping – and motivated them to aspire to peak performance. For Martin Schmidt too, Belalp is a place to recharge his batteries. As a child he used to visit his grandfather and still brings his family here on holiday.

Racchette, inverno, Vallese
Martin Schmidt leads the 
way. In the background: the historic Hotel Belalp on Aletschbord.

What did you do with the team on Belalp during the training camp?

Martin Schmidt: We climbed 1300 altitude metres on snowshoes up on Belalp. We spent the night in tents, sometimes at ten degrees below zero. It was in part mental training: I always try to create images that help the players stretch their limits.

How did the players respond?

Well, they came by train and caught the PostBus from Brig. Not exactly the kind of treatment that Bundesliga players are used to. But they were totally motivated and went along with it. For many it was the first time they’d ever been in such a majestic mountain landscape, and they were visibly fascinated.

How was the feedback?

The feedback came in the second half of the Bundesliga season: the “Belalp spirit” could be felt everywhere. And one player said: “Thanks, Coach, I saw snow for the first time!”

Were they also allowed to enjoy Valais specialities?

Yes, the famed assiette valaisanne, fondue and Häxucafe were on the menu. Some players requested the wine-free fondue.

What effect do the mountains exert on people?

Mountains impart energy and stir up the motivation to achieve great things.

Racchette, inverno, Vallese
In the heart of the Swiss Alps, the professional football players recharge their batteries.

How often do you come to Belalp?

Always one week at Christmas and two in the summer. Plus I like to make another short trip or two in the autumn, to go hiking.

What do you miss most when you’re in Germany?

The mountains, skiing, Valais and my family.

How do you spend the time with your family on Belalp?

In the winter we go skiing, of course, and in the summer we like staying at our mountain hut in Bäll.

What betrays your Valais origins?

My accent – obvious, isn’t it? And my optimism.

What characterises a native of Valais?

The Valaisans have a positive attitude. We are hard-headed, strong-willed and highly self-motivated.

How do you motivate your players?

Mostly with mental images and the power of visualisation. It is essential to activate their intrinsic motivation. With that I mean the will of each individual to improve himself day by day – on his own initiative.

Racchette, inverno, Vallese
The team of FSV Mainz 05 on their march from Schönbiel to Hochbiel. For most it was their first ever snowshoe hike.

Published: Winter 2016/17

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