Elite sport Schools in Germany best practices for DCA

16 November 2018
Elite sport Schools in Germany best practices for DCA

Elite sport Schools in Germany best practices for DCA

According to According to Athletes Careers Across Cultures (Natalia B. Stambulova, Tatiana V. Ryba, Routledge, 7.06.2013)

Career assistance through Deutsche Sporthilfe

Deutsche Sporthilfe is a foundation whose central aim is to bring educational and occupational development into harmony with an athlete's sport career by providing financial support. The amount of support is dependent on the athlete's age, developmental needs and performance. Assistance services may include an individual boarding school grant, reimbursement for private school lessons, scholarships for students and refunds for loss of earnings of employed athletes. For Olympic medal candidates the ‘Elite Plus’ program offers a monthly salary that allows a full-time sport activity. After retirement, top-level athletes can receive a special scholarship for their post-career education.

Since 2011, individual consultation with the aim of career guidance has been mandatory for every junior elite athlete who is financially supported by Deutsche Sporthilfe. The consultation is embedded in the first year of assistance services for all young elite athletes. As Christian Breuer (Chairperson of the DOSB active athletes' advisory board) said, it is positive that young elite athletes are now sensitized for an early vocational/educational career planning parallel to their competitive sport career (Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund, 2011).

According to the https://www.clearinghouseforsport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/406187/German_sport_system.pdf

Athlete Pathway


The athlete pathway has become more deliberately structured in recent years through the emergence of elite sports schools, and proliferation of federal and Olympic training centres. Progression through these institutions provides the typical athlete pathway for most Olympic sports. (It is the more professional sports that are often the exception, such as road cycling or football, where clubs or corporate teams play a significant role in the development of elite athletes from an earlier age.)

The massive club system and its competitions are the backbone of the entire system, and provide obvious feeder points for athletes to be recruited into the high performance system at any level along the continuum.

School Sport

High level training can be integrated into schools in 3 ways: via the mechanism of sport-stressed classes, sport boarding schools and partner schools achievement sport (elite schools of sport).

Sports or physical activity as a regular part of classes/school life in normal schools is however in a „miserable‟ state in Germany. This is one of the factors leading to the social trend of declining numbers of young Germans participating in sports and physical leisure activities on a regular basis. In the long term, such a continuing trend would obviously reduce the available talent pool for high performance sports.


Elite schools of sports

Elite sports schools play a core role in developing young athletes in Germany. They have been remarkably successful: around 80 % of all German participants and half of the medal winners at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City were former pupils of an elite sports school; and from 2001 to 2004, the approximately 11,000 pupils in the sport schools systems won 683 medals at youth world and European championships. At the same time a normal school education ensures that young athletes receive a solid educational basis for later entry into higher education or for pursuing vocational studies.

The characteristic features of an elite sports school include a focus on training combined with a normal school education, whole-day supervision in part-residential schools or fully-residential boarding, greater flexibility of schooling, structures designed to promote young sporting talent such as homogenous high-performance training groups, qualified coaches and often support services provided by an aligned Olympic training centre.

Although under the authority of Lander governments, the day schools and residential schools are administered by the German Sports Federation and the Stiftung Deutsche Sporthilfe (German Sports Aid Foundation), and work in close cooperation with Olympic training centres. There is also the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe (a syndicate of all German banks) which donates around Euro 300,000 annually to elite sports schools to assist in the selection and training of gifted young sportsmen and sportswomen. Elite sport schools thus are heavily dependant on funding/donations from corporate philanthropists.

At present there are 40 locations of sports schools in Germany. These are often aligned with and situated near the Olympic training centres. Admissions to these schools are based on the following criteria:

-School conditions (specific according to requirements of the different school types)

-Proof of a sport-medicine investigation by Landesinstitute for sport medicine (after fixed investigation contents)

-Sporting conditions (fulfilment of general and special performance criteria according to standards set by the national federation; Consideration of personality characteristics)

The results are then conveyed to the responsible person/coach of the central association and to the national sport federation. Following consultation the national sport federation recommends a student to the head master of the school concerned, who then decides upon admission.

The Hermann Neuberger sport school is a prime example of the world class facilities available to German elite and developing athletes. 2.5 million euro (of mainly state government funds) have recently been invested to upgrade facilities at the school which provides accommodation for up to 104 residential students. The facilities are used by many associations for training as well as the students.

Other sports schools

As well as the elite schools of sport there are other schools that provide specialised sport programs for particular sports. These programs are aligned with the DSB‟s „achievement sport‟ initiative, and are focused on developing players for in professional sports, such as football. As these schools are not bona fide sports schools the development programs are typically funded and administered through arrangements between the school, the state government, the state/regional sport association, and a sponsoring club/s.

For example, there are 5 such schools that incorporate a football development program in Bavaria: Theodolinden Gymnasium in Munich, the Walter Klingenbeck Realschule in Taufkirchen, and the Hauptschule in Taufkirchen, Georg Ledebour Hauptschule in Nuremberg-Langwasser and the Bertolt Brecht Comprehensive School. These schools are each aligned with the participating professional clubs: Bayern Munich, TSV 1860 Munich, SpVgg Unterhaching and 1 FC Nuremberg. Training is incorporated into each school day amongst regular classes for the young players in the performance sports class, and is usually between 12 and 18 hours a week. Coaching is provided by youth coaches from the aligned clubs. Meals are also provided as part of the program. This initiative is central to the German Football Association‟s (DFB) new plan to develop young talent, which was introduced following Germany‟s failure at the 1998 world cup. As part of this the FCB now stipulates that all Bundesliga23 teams must run a boarding school for potential young footballers. The DFB has also launched a comprehensive talent promotion programme with 390 bases equipped with volunteer coaches and base co-ordinators, attended by 22,000 young people. The aim is to get the bases involved in co-operation with schools.

For acceptance into the football school programs in Bavaria, a young player may be recruited directly from a club talent scout, or may be selected from tests administered by the Bavarian Football Association and the professional clubs.

There is a similar program in region of Hesse, where ten school football centres have also benefited from co-operation between the football association and the Education Ministry. For example, the Bundesliga club Schalke 04 is networked with the comprehensive school Berger Feld in Gelsenkirchen, which has a boarding school facility right next to the Auf Schalke stadium. Every young person attending the football school plays at least ten hours of football a week. The Bundesliga club has to spend about EUR 30,000 a year for a player accommodated in the sports centre.


Accoeding to:

“Personal characteristics as predictors for dual career dropout versus continuation – A prospective study of adolescent athletes from German elite sport schools”



Volume 21, November 2015, Pages 42-49


Highlights on the needs for DCA for young elite athletes

  1. Dual career athletes from German elite sport schools took part in a prospective study.



  1. Athletes who dropped out from sport more often came from individual than team sports.


  1. Physical complaints, low win orientation and low self-optimization predicted dropout.


  1. Training of volitional skills may help to prevent dropout from sport.



According to :

“Dual Careers”: The Structural Coupling of Elite Sport and School
Exemplified by the German Verbundsysteme , Carmen Borggrefe and Klaus Cachay, University of Biefeld, Germany, in
European Journal for Sport and Society 2012, 9 (1+2), 57-80


Dual career system “Verbundsystem”

Abstract: The incompatibility between elite sports training and the demands of school poses serious problems for school-aged athletes in Germany. To reduce the difficulties of balancing athletics and academics and to improve student chances of success in these “dual careers”, Germany introduced a form of cooperation between schools and organised sports, the so- called “Verbundsystem”, as a means of supporting and promoting talented young athletes. In this paper, current developments in the Verbundsystem models are analysed against the backdrop of systems theory. The focus here is on the structural coupling of elite sports and school structures. Taking the Verbundsystem models “Spezialschulen Sport” in Brandenburg and “NRW-Sportschulen” as examples, possibilities and limitations of integrating school and sports training structures are discussed, and barriers to the “func- tionalisation” of those schools are identified.


On account of Germany’s federalist education system there are a great number of federal state-specific models in the Verbundsystem which have various designations and some of which also display considerable structural differences. This applies, for example, to the way in which talented young athletes are integrated in the schools. On the one hand there are the sports class models of “schools with a sports pro- file” (Sportbetonte Schulen) which group all sports students at the school into special sports classes and sections; and on the other hand there are so-called “partner schools for competitive sport” (Partnerschulen des Leistungssports) which integrate their sports students into normal, regular classes. Besides these there are Verbundsystem schools whose intake is exclusively made up of young top-level athletes, although these schools, too, are regular schools within the legal framework for education in

66 Carmen Borggrefe and Klaus Cachay

their particular state. Without exception these schools are to be found in the “new” federal states (i.e. those of the former GDR). Verbundsystem schools with special structural and qualitative features (e.g. the number of top-team athletes supervised or links with national training centers) are awarded the special status of “elite school of sport” (Eliteschule des Sports) by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). Across Germany there are currently 40 such schools, which without ex- ception are “schools with a sports profile”, i.e. schools which have opted for the organisational model of sports classes. However, the total number of Verbundsystem schools in Germany is distinctly higher, amounting to an estimated 150 schools.

This process of anchoring elite sport into the school curriculum is underpinned by the development of what are known as schulinterne Lehrpläne (SILP) (school-specific curricula). The Special Sports Schools in Brandenburg have different curricular content and guidelines for the subject of physical education than the other schools in the state, drawing up a specific curriculum relative to each school’s own focus. Their objective is to “pave the way for competitive sports to become an area of learning and instruction in school” and to “qualitatively transform existing training plans into school-specific curricula as a programmatic foundation for instruction in the area of competitive sports” (Hummel et al., 2009, 8). Existing training plans are thus reworked from a didactic perspective and integrated into school curricula. The principle of comprehensive sports classes that encompass a wide range of sports is abandoned, and instead individual sports themselves become school subjects. In the state of Brandenburg, there are school-specific curricula for the focal sports at the three Special Sports Schools12, with each sport being offered as a separate subject in which students receive competitively oriented, sport-specific training. In this construct, “the cultural asset of elite sport” — as Hummel and Brand (2010, 42) describe it — “is treated as a special area of school-based general education for special-focus, sport- specific physical education classes, and made into a fixed element of the school- specific curriculum (SILP)”.


Conclusions and Outlook

The structural coupling of elite sport and school constitutes an attempt to solve the problem of reconciling athletic and academic careers by declaring elite sport train- ing to be a component of schools’ curricular content. From the point of view of elite sport, this anchoring of elite sport training in the school system appears highly at- tractive since it ensures that sport has reliable access to important resources, above all staff, sports facilities, and time. From the point of view of schools, however, this structural coupling appears problematic since, with elite sport, contents gain entry to schools which are not readily compatible with their functions of education and selec- tion. Using the example of the Special Sports Schools in Brandenburg and the NRW Sports Schools we have endeavored to show that certain preconditions are necessary in order to adapt the logic of elite sport to the logic of schools.

This involves, first, a pedagogical reflection theory which legitimises training as curricular content. Second, a special status is needed which is anchored in school law and allows schools to draw up school-specific elite sport curricula, employ teacher- coaches, and guarantee adequate student-teacher ratios for training in physical edu- cation classes. And, third, the organisational barriers must be taken into consideration which ultimately determine whether or not schools allow elite sport to ‘intrude’ on their core business of teaching. Wherever schools do not have a tradition of fostering elite sports, and wherever the promotion of young top-level athletes is regarded as incompatible with notions of (physical) education derived from a multi-dimensional understanding of sport and a holistic development of the personality, the structural coupling of elite sport and school seems scarcely possible.

In conclusion, it must be emphasised once more that structural coupling is highly improbable and so laden with preconditions that there does not seem to be any sense at all in setting it up as a general program for sports schools. On the contrary, it would appear necessary to carry out empirical studies on its possibilities and limitations in order, on the basis of the data thus obtained, to develop differentiated concepts.