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Swiss coach involved in NZ high-performance
By Christo Peters - Wed 2 Nov 2022 10:38pm

Florian represented the Swiss National Elite Orienteering Team and he is a member of the Norwegian association “IL Tyrving” in Oslo. He has won three medals (gold, silver and bronze) during his years competing at JWOC – the Bronze in the Middle in 2012 at the same time as when Matt Ogden won a Gold. Florian Schneider, has just retired as a Swiss elite, has agreed to work with ONZ HP to help in preparation for both WOC2023, in Switzerland, and also as far as possible for JWOC2023. 

You visited NZ in 2017 and did a presentation for the North West Orienteering Club. What originally brought you to New Zealand? How did the orienteering in New Zealand differ from that in Europe? I wanted to see the whole country and to get to know with people and nature down under, that’s why I visited NZ in 2017. It was kind of a ‘break’ between studies and work/full time orienteering. When I ran in NZ I was surprised to see how many different terrain you have just within such short distance. Runing arround Hawkes Bay in the NZ championships was so different to the Wellington championships. I cannot talk about the terrain on the south island, but I felt like I was traveling through whole Europe whilst orienteering.  

It is fabulous for New Zealand orienteers to have a euro coach. What do you think you can offer from afar? The difficulty will for sure be that I continue to be here in Europe while most of the athletes will train and life in NZL. So we will not see each other than in the competitions plus maybe in a short pre-camp. I hope that I can give some new input, and ideas to the daily training, but for sure the main focus is to support the athletes when they arrive here in Europe for the competition. I will try to stay in contact with the athletes during the whole year to analyse and work together. My main offer is to be there as a « person to talk to » about everything connected with elite sports – not only training but also analysis,  planning, and the whole „life around“  the athlete environment and mental health. When we are very close to a competition I try to make it easier for the athletes to focus on the important stuff like: the race, team leader meetings, and getting the last detailed information to help you.

What many kiwi athletes may lack is Swiss punctuality, timeliness and orderly systems! We are great at going out and punching above our weight and turning on ‘beast-mode’ when required, but we also like our training to be fun! Can serious training be professional without being too grim? Is the recipe to train in a group and check-in with each other? Is this how it has worked with clubs you have been with overseas, and has it worked for you? I think this might actually be a big chance ! The strict and punctuality eager of the Swiss system is for sure a plus when it comes to « on point » timing – but it has also some ‘set backs’. I think you need to be very focused and specific to perform well at the big event but also in  the meantime you need to have  flexibility, coolness and  a « relaxed mind » to deliver when it counts. If you are too focused, you may put too much pressure on yourself you will maybe not succeed. I think training should be something you are looking forward to. Even the hard intervals should be like « yeah let’s hit those loops and increase the lactic » . And what is better than doing it in a group? Hard training with good company will make you stronger, and afterwards you almost always enjoy the training!

Is there a special focus you will have with your coaching? Do you see some potential we can improve on? I think there are three points I try to work on:
1) To build-up the big dream in everyone, to make people believe in unbelievable things, because I do believe that you will never be able to reach the sky if you are not dreaming from the stars. Meaning the bigger the dream is, the bigger your achievement will be. And also the bigger your motivation and input you will give.

2) We will start to work with a few questions: What kind of athlete am I today? And what athlete do I want to be in one year? Then, to make a proper analysis of how the orienteering and training is and your life around it – how do you expect it to be? Think about what specific changes do you need to make for this.? Maybe there are small things to change but maybe some will realise that they also may need more from a coach / personal trainer or so on. And this is where things will get interesting. To see how many different paths may begin and how they will hopefully come together at WOC / JWOC.

3) I will try to optimise the time here in Europe for athletes. This is basically my main task, but it needs some preparation as I described earlier. So when the athletes arrive in Europe they should know that for the competition that the only, and main focus is to try to reach the peak level they have – nothing more. They should not focus on: where we find information, what it looks like at the finish; or if anyone has extra tape for run etc. It should be that they can trust in someone will be there at the start line and also after they cross the finish line. Someone who helps to prepare, aids with analysis and to help prepare for the next race. I think this is the potential and more for this position. And honestly I hope that this « new » input will motivate some runners to invest into their training and that more motivated runners will come to compete overseas.

When will the training and coaching begin and how often do you expect the check-ins to be?
The training has hopefully already started 😊 ! My coaching time will begin in November/ December where I get to know the athletes and start to talk about dreams and goals. To prepare the season ahead and make some plans and then when we are already I’ll be on the track to give input. My goal is to have a talk with the athletes around every 4-6 weeks. Maybe this will be sometimes a bit more and maybe sometimes a bit less – depending on where in the season we actually are, and how big the interest is.

What was your favourite terrain or event in Europe? Share with us one of your best races or areas to train on? My favourite terrain was, and is always, the Swiss alpine terrain. Mostly because because I like a steep climb (uphill) and slope running. But I am also a huge fan of Czech Republic terrain with the sandstone-rocks. My best memory is, and will probably always be, the middle distance in Grindelwald 2017 at the world-cup final. A race where I had everything under control from start to finish. Where I never felt that I was running fast, but was always very focused on my technicalities and I never thought about results, but just about the next control. And at the same time I always enjoy running through a forest with blueberries.

Do you think you will come back to NZ? If so, where is the place you would most like to go orienteering or do some touristy things in NZ? I will for sure come back! First of all because I want to do some MTB in Rotorua and around Wellington, but also because I want to do orienteering around Hawkes Bay and Christchurch. I want to run around Elephant Rocks and do some hiking / trail running in Wānaka and Lake Tekapo. I just have to find time and someone who will look after my husky so I have enough time to travel.

What is your big dream to achieve with NZ orienteering?  I have several dreams and  ideas in my mind. Like I said, the bigger you dream the bigger your success can be. My big motivation is to motivate more runners to focus on orienteering and to invest some time into this beautiful sport. When I started to think about coaching I had this dream of: what if someone a small nation will win a diploma or even more? Like NZL has already won at JWOC a few years ago – so why not try to repeat this at WOC?

📷: Ulf Schiller  |  Locations: Top photo: Lobhörner, second photo: Grindelwald

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