Imke Wübbenhorst: A German coaching pioneer aiming to climb further

German fourth division side Sportfreunde Lotte returned to training last week ahead of a new season in the Regional League West. Putting the players through their paces however, for only the second ever time at this level, a female head coach: Imke Wübbenhorst.

Fresh from completing Germany’s prestigious Fussball-Lehrer (Football Teacher) coaching badge, it’s the 31-year-old’s second job in men’s football. After taking charge of fifth-division side BV Cloppenburg for six months in 2019, Wübbenhorst has now become only the second female head coach in Germany’s fourth tier, after Inka Grings at SV Straelen last season.

“I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be a coach, and I’ve always wanted to be a very highly qualified coach,” Wübbenhorst tells DW. “I studied sport, biology and education, but not because I wanted to be a teacher; I knew that those subjects would help me to become a top coach.”

Achieving top grades in the classroom is one thing, but Wübbenhorst has always known that practical experience is just as vital. The former Hamburg midfielder and Germany under-23 international sacrificed a lot to gain that coaching badge and also took up a placement at Bundesliga side RB Leipzig working alongside Julian Nagelsmann.

Taking risks

“I gave up my flat and sold off a lot of stuff, pretty much everything I owned, in order to do my badges,” she reveals. “But football is something for which I am prepared to give up everything to be successful. You can only achieve things in this sport when you really love it and don’t compromise, because it’s so competitive.”

Imke Wübbenhorst in training with Sportfreunde Lotte (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Kircher)

Imke Wübbenhorst puts her players through their paces

It’s tough enough for male coaches to make it to the top of the professional men’s game, but even tougher for women. Few teams have any experience of employing female coaches and club and league hierarchies are still awash with outdated and chauvinistic views. Women are still confronted with baseless stereotypes, whether questioning their authority in a male-dominated environment or reducing them to irrelevant physical differences.

Wübbenhorst herself highlighted just how absurd such questions are when asked last year whether she had to warn her players to put their shorts on before she entered the dressing room. “Of course not,” she responded coolly. “I’m a professional; I pick the team on penis length.”

The comment won her the “Football Quote of the Year” award but, as humorous as it was, it was a telling answer to an inane question that revealed just what sort of hurdles women face in the men’s game.

Old habits die hard

“Women are always ascribed the same attributes, that we’re not authoritative, that we can’t make decisions,” she says. “Things that, now that I’m active within the game, I know just aren’t true. All that depends on your personality and nothing else.

“It’s about time we stopped classifying people according to their external differences and stopped pigeonholing them.”

Not that Wübbenhorst has time for such trivialities as she tries to take Sportfreunde Lotte back to the third division. The club from Lotte in western Germany, whose prefix translates as “sports friends,” spent three years in the 3. Liga before being relegated in 2019, and even reached the quarterfinal of the German Cup in 2017, knocking out Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen before ultimately succumbing to Borussia Dortmund.

They’re a small club but they have history, tradition and expectations, and Wübbenhorst is relishing the challenge.

“Those Saturdays or Sundays when you hear the studs on the floor in the tunnel, when you smell the grass, when you prepare your team-talk to motivate the lads – they’re the greatest feelings in sport,” she says.

“And then the rollercoaster of emotions during a game: you take the lead, but then concede an equalizer and then maybe another, but then then you come back and go on to score the winner. You only get that in sport. That’s what I live for.”

This interview was conducted by Thomas Klein.



Chesapeake Energy, a pioneer in the U.S. shale revolution, files for bankruptcy protection

A worker on a Chesapeake Energy natural gas rig in Fort Worth, Texas

Matt Nager | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chesapeake Energy, the poster child of the U.S. shale revolution, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday. The move comes as the company and industry more broadly has been rocked by a drop in oil and gas prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The heavily indebted company has been in trouble for some time, and in May said that it had concerns regarding its long-term viability.

Chesapeake said that $7 billion in debt will be wiped out through the restructuring. The company has secured $925 million in debtor-in-possession financing in order to continue operations, as well as an additional $600 million commitment for new equity once the company emerges from bankruptcy.

Franklin Resources and Fidelity are among the biggest creditors, according to people close to the company, and they will be among the primary equity holders following the company’s restructuring. The company will continue operations at a much reduced capacity, with a handful of gas rigs and no oil rigs, according to those familiar with the company’s plans.

“We are fundamentally resetting Chesapeake’s capital structure and business to address our legacy financial weaknesses and capitalize on our substantial operational strengths,” CEO Doug Lawler said in a statement. 

Chesapeake Energy was founded in 1989 by Aubrey McClendon. An early pioneer of horizontal drilling, he built the company into a key player in the U.S. gas industry. At its peak, Chesapeake had 175 operating rigs, with operations across the U.S. including in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But the company took on a lot of debt to fuel its rapid expansion, and from 2010 to 2012 spent $30 billion more in drilling and leasing than it made from its operations.

McClendon was ultimately ousted from the company in 2013, and in 2016 was indicted on federal charges of conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases for a new venture he had started. The following day, McClendon perished in a car crash.

When current CEO Dough Lawler succeeded him, the company had nearly as much debt as Exxon and Chevron combined.

“Over the last several years, our dedicated employees have transformed Chesapeake’s business — improving capital efficiency and operational performance, eliminating costs, reducing debt and diversifying our portfolio,” Lawler said in a statement. “Despite having removed over $20 billion of leverage and financial commitments, we believe this restructuring is necessary for the long-term success and value creation of the business.”

Chesapeake’s downturn is not unique. Whiting Petroleum is among the other once great drillers that couldn’t survive a historic plunge in oil prices. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on April 1.

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