IMOGEN AINSWORTH on how 21-year-old goalkeeper Alex Stadler’s rise to the Germany Olympic hockey team was nurtured with fun and dedication at one English school
Alex Stadler’s seemingly rapid rise to the top – to become Germany’s No.1 choice goalkeeper at the Tokyo Olympics aged 21 – has been no coincidence. His skills were honed at Oakham School in Rutland, England, where the young German teen’s “ultra competitiveness” marked him out – even on the cricket field.
During his tenure at Oakham, Stadler played a key role with the first team. He was involved in the National Indoor finals, National Outdoor quarter finals, and victorious in the Independent Schools Midlands Hockey League.
Since then, there has been a real boost in boys’ hockey at Oakham, and they have gone on to reach the National Indoor finals every year since. Further, he has already been a key addition to Germany’s national side.
James Bateman, director of hockey at Oakham, described Stadler as a “superb role model” and recalled how he showed the qualities of a great player from a young age.
“From the first moment we met him when he came into school he was very focused with his hockey, he loves to have a laugh around off the pitch, and he’s a real character,” he said.
“But his application and his desire to be the best that he can be is definitely what set him in good stead, I mean it was clear from the first moment we met him that he was a very talented goalkeeper and he was very determined about what he wanted to achieve.
“He was really clear with his goals – he wanted to go to an Olympics, he wanted to play senior hockey for Germany, and we’re really proud that he’s gone on to achieve that.”
Bateman says that the drive to success was visible both on and off the pitch for the young German.
He recalls that “he would get up early and go into the gym, and work with our S&C coach on his own programme. Within there he’d be out doing his running sessions as well which was tremendous to see off his own back. And then he really put in the work on the field as well. He’d go from doing a goalkeeper session to going into a team session and he really brought across all of his experience from Germany to bring it into our program as well.”
Oakham also has strong links with Beeston Hockey Club. As part of his development and stretching his hockey, Stadler also trained with the Premier Division team.
Joel Tratt, head of strength and conditioning during Stadler’s time at Oakham, was a key figure in the wider development of his game. With input from his work with Germany’s youth team, they focused on resistance training, and technical speed and plyometric work.
Tratt said: “He always showed high levels of focus, work ethic and drive to be the best player he could be at a young age and this was no different in his strength and conditioning work. He operated with a maturity that was beyond his years and was a pleasure to coach.
“He had very impressive consistency to his training. It’s very easy at a younger age to enjoy S&C work for a short period of time before becoming distracted by something else but this didn’t happen with Alex. Ultimately, sporting success comes through a combination of ability and consistent hard work and he had both of these. He was the same athlete in the gym at 7am in deepest winter, as when conditions were at their best.”
Meanwhile Oakham’s influential goalkeeper coach, Jamie Cachia, said that Stadler’s consistency marked him out as a senior international in the making.
“He continually made saves I just didn’t think he should- his recovery and scramble saves were outstanding,” says Cachia. “Physically he was strong, very dynamic and had incredible reactions. Psychologically he was so keen to learn, to discuss to help others. He was already a German U16 so I had no idea whether he would be open to new ideas. He was fantastic to work with in that respect and working with him forced me to develop and improve my own coaching.”
“He was just a lot of fun – ultra competitive and he wanted to win everything but he was always smiling and a great influence on the other goalkeepers around him.
“That is what I enjoyed about working with him – real focus on trying to improve certain areas but it was always really enjoyable and fun, he was great to be around.” He also went on to say that he was “very coachable, hard working and talented.”,
As a boarder at Oakham, his sporting qualities were also evident in other aspects of school life aside from hockey – even playing cricket. “He was just a real competitor whatever it was he was doing whether it be competing in house cricket, whether he was competing in Biathlon in PE or if he was on the hockey field he was determined to be the best that he could be.”
Stadler is Oakham’s second hockey Olympian, following in the footsteps of Team GB’s Crista Cullen.