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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Anstrengend

A little over a year ago, FC Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch burst onto the mainstream with a speech. His squad had fallen behind 0-3 on the road at Liverpool in the Champions League, and the score read 1-3 at halftime. Marsch implored his players to make their opponents feel their fight.

Using a hybrid of English and German, the Racine, WI native proved to be effective, as his team went on to score two straight goals in the second half to pull even. FC Salzburg ultimately lost 3-4 as Liverpool found a late goal, but Marsch's impact had been felt. He became the first American manager to coach in the Champions League, and the first to win a European trophy, as his squad went on to win the Austrian League this past year.

Being an American manager in Europe isn't easy, as those who try face an uphill battle for acceptance. Marsch, however, seems to be finding it by embracing anstrengend, the German word for difficult, time-consuming, or stressful.

He had this to say in an online webinar this summer:

“If you want something enough, difficult becomes your best friend. It’s your greatest asset. And this is one, because of the growth that comes with it but two, because very few people are willing to chase it down … If everyone was great, it wouldn’t mean anything … Great comes with a hefty mental price tag. Difficult means you are consistently doing what the average … deem to be too great a sacrifice … See difficult as a staircase, not a brick wall … It is your door, your passageway … The only thing worth a second of your time is making sure every step you take points you in the direction of where you want to be most.”

One of Marsch's anstrengend pursuits has been to learn German, the language local to Salzburg.

"I tell [the players] I don't speak German with them because I think I'm good at it," He said, "I make mistakes in every sentence. German's a brutal language, too. It's brutal. But I've gotten much better. It's really helped me understand the people within the communities I've worked on in both Germany and Austria."

Marsch's example has been a lesson for me as a coach. Growth comes from doing what's anstrengend. Thus, the way to grow isn't to avoid it. It's to seek it.

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