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Der Mensch im Mittelpunkt: On revolutioniert die Athletenbetreuung
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People are the focus: On is revolutionizing athlete care

On is setting new standards in athlete support. With professional training, individual support and the innovative "360 Athlete Support" program, On prepares its runners optimally for the future.

Words: Sven Rudolph
Photos: Florian Kurrasch

We visited OAC Europe and met Thomas Dreißigacker and Jolanda Kallabis for a conversation in St. Moritz.

The Swiss sporting goods manufacturer On is known for the "clouds" under its shoes and its unconventional approach. This is also reflected in the care it gives its athletes. At On, it's not just about exchanging material and money for performance, but supporting athletes in various areas of life. Olivier Bernhard, co-founder of On and former professional athlete, emphasizes that internally they never talk about "sponsorship" because this "I pay, you deliver" model is outdated.

This is particularly evident in the On Athletics Club (OAC), which includes training groups in Europe, the USA and Oceania. With its own coaches and under professional conditions, On offers long-term support to encourage young runners on their way to European Championships, World Championships and the Olympic Games.

The future of European running

Today, the team consists of thirteen young athletes from all over Europe who, through targeted support, are given the opportunity to make their mark on the world of running. The athletes' performance and personal development speak for the concept. Several national and international titles also confirm the success of the project.

While the athletes were doing a leisurely run around Lake St. Moritz, we chatted with Thomas Dreißigacker over a few laps around the track. Before becoming head coach of OAC Europe, the sports scientist worked as head and base coach in the German Athletics Association. When On approached him with the offer to lead the first real professional team in middle and long distance running in Europe, he didn't have to think twice.

“Different characters bring different input and that’s a beautiful thing.”

- Thomas Dreissigacker

When the team was founded, it consisted of six athletes; now there are 13. "Different characters bring different input and that's a great thing," says Thomas. "We have many nations in the team and therefore different cultures and approaches. Overall, that brings a lot of dynamism to the team and I find that extremely pleasant compared to my previous job, where I only looked after German athletes," explains Thomas.

When selecting new members, On attaches great importance to ensuring that it is a good fit for both sides. After the initial contact, a conversation takes place between the respective athlete and Thomas Dreißigacker, in which he explains his training philosophy and the team's setup. "This is a big decision for an athlete and therefore has to be well thought out," emphasizes Thomas. The athlete then has the opportunity to get to know the team and the training in a training camp for two to three weeks. Both sides then decide whether it feels right.

German athletes in OAC Europe

Three German athletes are also part of the team: Fabiane Meyer, Robert Farken and the newest addition Jolanda Kallabis. Jolanda, the youngest athlete in the team, competed in her first German women's championships in 2023. The 800m final took place the day after her 17th birthday. She won the race and took the German indoor championship title. After graduating from school, she joined OAC Europe in August 2023.

“I have already reached the top of the German women’s rankings.”

- Jolanda Kallabis

During a walk in St. Moritz, she tells us that she hadn't gone to the German championships with the idea of ​​winning. When it happened, she realized: "Okay, I've already reached the top of the German women's world." Achieving this at such a young age was a special moment. "At the same time, it's also an incentive to keep up and stay at the top," says the 18-year-old combatively.

In order to achieve this, she wants to work hard and develop further. This is also why she chose OAC Europe. Her training is already much more consistent, structured and professional. The biggest change for Jolanda, however, was the extra time. "After I finished school, I joined the team straight away and then the biggest change was that I suddenly had a lot of time for training and no additional stress from school," says Jolanda. This means she can train twice almost every day and get proper rest.

Support in all areas of life with “360 Athlete Support”

In order to perform well in competitions, more than just training has to be right. "In addition to the physical requirements, the psyche plays a major role in performance," says Thomas. "If there are too many stress factors and the head is full of other things, then the body is not as ready to perform." That is why it is important to create an environment in which the athletes feel comfortable and can focus on the sport. The OAC Europe offers such an environment and the performances of the 13 athletes in recent years confirm this.

Two years after announcing the team, On is taking the next step and announcing the "360 Athlete Support" program, which aims to redefine the standards of athlete support in the industry and help athletes succeed in all facets of their lives. The program was developed in collaboration with Swiss triathlon legend Nicola Spirig, who moved into a part-time role at On after retiring from racing. It aims to introduce a new philosophy of holistic athlete support to the world of sport.

“In addition to the physical requirements, the psyche plays a major role in performance.”

- Thomas Dreissigacker

On's comprehensive program supports athletes through physical and mental preparation, health and recovery measures, and training in financial planning. In addition to access to a network of experts, it offers support for personal branding and media relations. The program also helps with professional development with individual plans and strengthens the sense of community through networking events.

Olivier Bernhard has the vision of offering all athletes a call center for all kinds of problems. Whether it's a missed flight, an injury, taxation of prize money or dealing with hate posts on social networks - just call. All "360 Athlete Support" offers are voluntary, except for the mandatory anti-doping course on the On athlete platform.

A holistic approach with potential

On is not only focused on the performance of its athletes, but also has their overall well-being in mind. In addition to establishing the OAC Europe team, this holistic approach could also serve as a model and permanently change the standards in the sports industry.

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