Jicha: “I want to go my own way”

He scored 2,125 goals in 391 matches for “the love of his life”; won the VELUX EHF Champions League twice, in 2010 and 2012; and was seven-time German champion – now Filip Jicha opens a new chapter of his story with THW Kiel. 

After the end of his player career, he was assistant coach to Alfred Gislason for one season. Now, Jicha is the new head coach of the three-time EHF Champions League winners. 

Before Kiel open their VELUX EHF Champions League season with the Match of the Week against Kielce on Sunday, Jicha talks about his new role, his ambitions and how he copes with the pressure.

ehcl.com: How does it feel to follow the footsteps of Alfred Gislason?

Filip Jicha: Alfred left huge traces and footprints in Kiel, and to be honest, it is not my plan to fill his footprints. I want to go my own way, to implement a new way of cooperation with the players. But of course, I want to be as successful as Alfred.

ehcl.com: Are you still in contact with him?

Filip Jicha: We phone regularly, but Alfred would never give me advice or tell me how I should do my work. I have to make my own experience, and this is what he absolutely respects. I value Alfred very much, even beyond handball – as a human being, not only as a coach. Our relationship is brilliant, and he offered to give me a helping hand if I need some support.

ehcl.com: How do you describe your coaching style?

Filip Jicha: I could adapt so many things from brilliant coaches who coached me throughout my career, so I took many things from them, but modified them in my way. To be honest, I include exercises of Noka Serdarusic, Xavi Pascual and Alfred Gislason in any of my training sessions. I collected many of those exercises in my career. But still, I have my own style and I hope it will fit the requirements of a club such as Kiel. I am optimistic; the feedback of the players is quite positive so far. 

ehcl.com: What have you changed?

Filip Jicha: Over the years, Alfred Gislason had built up a team and worked on many details, which we definitely do not want to change, as they work. It was my huge advantage to be Alfred’s assistant last season, so I have such an in-depth view into everything here. We were a great team of coaches and I did not have to start from grassroots. There were little things I changed – mainly I worked on the strengths of every single player, because the team can only improve if each player improves. 

ehcl.com: Gislason wanted to have everything under his personal control. You have a team of coaches, such as former THW players Christian Sprenger and Mattias Andersson. Is it easy for you to delegate tasks?

Filip Jicha: I like to work in a group of coaches, but of course at the beginning, you want to control everything. But it is important that Christian and Mattias contribute with their creativity and experience. 

ehcl.com: How long did you have to think over the offer to become coach of THW Kiel?

Filip Jicha: I never had any doubt that I could manage to coach THW, but I am very humble in this position. I had the best years of my career at THW, so I have huge respect for this club and for my job. When we talked about this job offer for the first time, I immediately had the feeling of “yes, I will!”

ehcl.com: THW Kiel is one of the best addresses in European handball. Does this increase the pressure on you, as this is your first job as a head coach?

Filip Jicha: I fully agree with all people who say that a former IHF World Player of the Year is not automatically a good coach. I start at zero, but I knew this pressure before. If you cannot stand the heat you should not go to the fireplace, so I knew what to expect.

ehcl.com: Kiel are defending German Cup winners and EHF Cup winners – but two important trophies have been missing in recent years…

Filip Jicha: Of course, it is always the goal of THW Kiel to become German champions – and we have not been champions since 2015. In 2016, we had our last appearance at the VELUX EHF FINAL4. So, we will try everything to reach those goals. But in both competitions, the opposition is huge, and many teams have a chance to make it to Cologne and to become German champions. And you always  need some luck. Of course, we always fight for the maximum.

Photo: Sascha Klahn

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg