BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, May 6, 2011
Enochs in action in 2006
As VfL Osnabruck's fight to stay in the 2. Bundesliga enters into its final weeks, their American coach Joe Enochs remains confident that the club will rise to the occasion.
Enochs, 39, took over on an interim basis at the end of March when the club fired Karsten Baumann after four straight losses that sent the club relegation zone. Due to Enoch's lack of the required coaching licenses, he is now an assistant to Heiko Flottmann, but has a large say in game and player management the rest of the season.
Osnabruck management decided to turn to a familiar face in Enochs who had been coaching the second team at Osnabruck for over two years and who had achieved legendary status when he was a player at the club from 1996-2008. During that time Enochs played in 359 games for the Lower Saxony based club.
"It's a tough job," Enochs told YA from Germany. "When the first coach was released, they approached me and told me they wanted me to do it. It wasn't even a question. It was 'Hey Joe, we need you. How do you feel about it?' I thought that if I could help the club, I would do it."
Enoch's first game as head coach was on April 1 and the team responded with a hard fought 2-2 draw against Luis Robles and Karlsruher SC. For Enochs, the transition was easier since he was very familiar with the team but the circumstances of a tough relegation fight have been difficult.
"The first week and before my first game we just did some basic stuff and worked on a few things," Enochs recalled of his first seven days in charge. "The team really accepted me from the start. I had known all the guys because I was coaching the second team. So the first part of it wasn't a problem at all in getting to know the team. But when the results didn't go our way, some people are unhappy."
"We just have to get through that. It's not always a lot of fun. It is fun when I'm on the field but the stuff off the field is pretty hard. It's tough."
The decision to turn to Enochs was heavily due to the club wanting to remain consistent with its overall philosophy. In recent years, the club has invested heavily on its internal infrastructure and youth development.
In hiring an outside coach, the club could find itself in a position where they have someone whose views are of a different approach. The club knew Enoch's approach to the team and determined it was a good fit for the remained of the season. For everyone involved, hiring from within at such a crucial t time made the most sense.
"Another major role that played into it is that when you get an outside guy to come in, there is no guarantee that he's going to make it," Enochs explained. "These outside guys cost a whole lot of money and you're stuck with him."
"We have a concept at the club that we want to get our [young] guys into the first team. We have a couple of German youth national team guys coming into the system. In the past we haven't been able to get these guys into the first team because they got snapped up by first division clubs."
"That's what the club wants to avoid doing. So no matter if you make it or not, the club wants to have its own concept. If we got a guy from the outside, he would come in and implement his concepts. The club doesn't want to be tied up with someone who says, 'I want this guy and this guy.' The club wants to be able to decide that for themselves. So that's why I think it's a good solution."
Enoch's tenure as both a head coach and an assistant at Osnabruck will be temporary. The club turned to Enochs to get them through a difficult spell but since the Petaluma, California native does not possess the required coaching licenses, he won't be able to continue as a first team coach past this year.
There are currently four coaching licenses that are required and Enochs has the first two. He is scheduled to take the exam to acquire his third in November then must wait a required year (a minimum year wait is required between acquiring every license) to apply for the exam for his final license.
So if everything goes according to plan, Enochs will acquire his final coaching license in November 2012. After that however, he is uncertain about his desire to become a head coach for a first team on a permanent basis.
"I don't' know if I really want to be the first team coach," the former Sacramento State Hornet discussed. "The problem with the first team coach is that it's the eye of the fire. If you don't have the success, you get released. Obviously the money is decent but if you don't do well, you're out of there. I am really tied to this club and I love this club. I love the city, we've got a good life, and my kids want to stay here."
As for what Enochs wants to eventually do, he is unsure but youth development and management are two options that come to mind at first. Either way, he does want to stay involved at first with Osnabruck.
"I want to help the club in some fashion," Enochs stated. "I don't know if the head coaching job is an option – maybe youth development or many some sort of combination with youth development and assistant with the first team. Also, maybe going into management is also an option."
Another possible path Enochs is open to in the long run is returning back home to the United States to coach. Osnabruck will remain his home until he gets his final license, aand after an additional spell in town learning with the requirements under his belt, Enochs feels that he could use his knowledge to help the game grow in his home country.
"I want to stay with the club and I want to learn a little bit," Enochs divulged. "No matter what licenses you have or what experiences you go through, you are always learning. I want to do that learning here because Osnabruck is a great place to learn. But it's always an option to come back to the States. The option to come to the States and maybe get on with a club and use my experience that I've had here to help build up a club is a definite option."
If he does return to the United States, Enochs is particularly interested in the area of youth development where he has spent a lot his time at Osnabruck. As coach of the second team, Enochs has been working with the club's top young players to prepare them to play at the level of the first team.
When Enochs was a young player in California, development was far different than it is now. At that time, many of the youth coaches were parents of players on the teams. While Enochs feels that youth development in the United States has improved dramatically since then, he is confident that his experiences in Germany will give a much needed different approach to coaching in the US.
"I think the experiences I've had here have been invaluable," Enochs pointed out. "That's true especially at the youth levels where Osnabruck's U-15 team, our U-17 team, and our U-19 team play in the highest leagues here in Germany. We are competing against the teams from the top Bundesliga teams. I've gotten a good look at how the club works and how the club brings up players. I think that experience would help benefit any team in the United States."
Enoch's experiences as a head coach in Europe are, in fact, rare and unique. There have been very few Americans that have coached at such a high level and, right now, Enochs is the only American first team head coach in Europe.
Enochs is proud of the fact he is trailblazing the path for other American coaches but he also admits that his situation is quite different than others will face.
"I never really thought of it as an American getting a head coaching job outside the United States," Enochs said of being a an American coach in Europe. "It's great, but I think of it in that I've played so long for the club and been involved with Osnabruck for 16 years, I wasn't an outside guy or an American coming in. There wasn't any thought by the club that there was an American coming in to coach a German team. I am basically accepted here as a person from Osnabruck."
Enochs has already achieved near-legendary status at Osnabruck where he remains immensely popular, where many fans refer to him as Uncle Joe. But right now, he is being asked to help rescue the club at a very important moment. Over the past decade, the club has spent money building up the youth program and internal infrastructure - to keep this progress going, remaining in the second division is a high priority.
Enochs believes that staying up is a good possibility. With two games to go, they sit in 16th place in the 18 team 2. Bundesliga. Under the current format, places 17 and 18 are relegated while 16th place must play in a playoff to remain in the league. For them to climb to safety and avoid the playoff, they must climb to 15th place where they are now two points out.
"It's a very good possibility we stay up," Enochs concluded. "The club is in a really, really good situation – especially if we stay up. When I say we are in a really good situation. When I was playing, I was playing against teams that are now in the fifth division."
"We've grown as club over the last 10-12 years with our investments in our youth program and infrastructure. It's amazing. Obviously it's so important to stay up in the second division, but we've got a tough road. If we keep playing like we did against FSV Frankfurt we will definitely have the chance to stay up. Some if it will come down to luck, but a lot of it will have to do with quality on the field."
"We have to get the results."