Richard Trautmann was a trainer in the German Judo Association (DJB) for 17 years. At first he was responsible for various youth teams, since 2016 also the senior national team, with which he has traveled halfway around the world over the years. There wasn’t much time for other things. That is over now. His contract, which expires at the end of the year, will not be renewed. “Now I can do the housekeeping and look after the children,” says the native of Munich on the phone while he is taking his son to judo training. “There is always something positive too.”
Trautmann, who came to judo as a child at his hometown club TSV Großhadern in the south-west of Munich, currently lives with his family in Poland, the home of his wife. He sounds relatively relaxed, but Trautmann is actually disappointed – and angry. Angry at an association that he accuses of having kicked him out of the door without giving any reason. Despite the successes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo – Trautmann’s protégé Eduard Trippel took silver, and bronze was added in the mixed competition – the end of the year is over. The Olympic bronze winner from 1992 and 1996 is already released from all tasks.
Like Trautmann, the U18 national coach, Bruno Tsafack, has to leave at the end of the year. He also complains that he has not been given any reasons for this. “I’m not being accused of anything,” he says, “but after analyzing my work, the decision was made.” He does not know the point of analysis. What hit him in particular: After three weeks, the message appeared on the DJB’s homepage that they had separated from him. “And that was the only thing you could write about me after eight years?” He asks, audibly disappointed. The separation from Trautmann was also announced with heartfelt thanks, but in thin lines.
Hartmut Paulat, board member for competitive sports at the DJB, is responsible for the decisions on paper, which is synonymous with the job of sports director. Neither he nor association president Daniel Keller give specific information about the reasons for the dismissals, for reasons of labor law, as they write, “and this also dictates our claim to the proper treatment of employees”. You will “not report on confidential conversations”, but have given both Trautmann and Tsafack the reasons in personal conversations. Both deny that.
“The overall situation is just not nice,” says a DJB employee, adding that there is a lack of respect, appreciation and honesty
Paulat and Trautmann have known each other for a long time, “I was never a big fan of this man,” says the national coach who was killed. Paulat was initially appointed as acting sports director a year ago after his predecessor Ruben Göbel had to vacate the post. According to Trautmann, that was the moment when things changed in the association: “The coaches had the feeling that the leaders of the association were no longer fully behind us.”
An employee who does not want to be named confirms this impression to the SZ and says: “The overall situation in the association is simply not nice.” There is a lack of respect, appreciation and honesty at the management level. At the general meeting on November 14th, a vote of no confidence against individual members of the executive committee was even planned. It all started with the election of the new body two years ago.
Since then, Daniel Keller has been President of the DJB. Ex-sports director Göbel was dismissed overnight in 2020, says Trautmann, who then asked for an explanation with other coaching colleagues at the presidium. “If someone with whom you have worked well is laid off overnight, you naturally ask yourself: What happens to us?” Keller had called them to a meeting “in which he made it clear to us what the new balance of power was”. The president has assured the coaches that they don’t have to worry, especially since the sports director is responsible for personnel decisions. However, as Trautmann claims, Keller added in Paulat’s presence: “But of course it is the case when the presidium comes to the conclusion that the board has chosen the wrong people as trainers,” Trautmann quotes the president, “then must you naturally ask yourself whether this is the right board of directors. ” That means: If the presidium wants to get rid of the trainer, the board should act accordingly – or has to pack the suitcases itself.
This fits the statement of a DJB employee that Paulat is “a puppet of the presidium”. When asked, Keller did not comment on this description, but another participant in the meeting confirmed the wording of the statement to the SZ. Trautmann went home with the uneasy feeling of only being a coach on call.
Trautmann and the board of directors disagreed about the strategic direction of the association
After the Olympic Games, the post on the board that Paulat had temporarily filled had to be re-advertised. Trautmann, who was dissatisfied on many points with Paulat’s leadership, saw his chance to take matters into his own hands instead of being constantly angry – and applied. “This meant that I was in competition with Mr. Paulat, who of course also officially applied,” says Trautmann.
In the interview for the job it became clear that the presidium and Trautmann had different ideas. He criticized, for example, that the executive committee is responsible for the strategic direction and not sports directors and coaches. “I think it makes sense that people who have never done competitive sport themselves decide about competitive sport, but rather people who have worked in the job for many years.” Trautmann called for more say. He also offended with the desire to gather all male squad athletes at one location and no longer distribute them across six bases across Germany.
It was known that Trautmann had different ideas about the direction of the association. That he had made “not just friends” with it, as well. So did the management level want to get rid of a critical voice with his dismissal?
“I don’t know,” says Trautmann, “but I know that there is no uniform understanding of these issues.” Paulat, who like Keller did not comment on the accusation, was finally confirmed in office. Two days later he informed Trautmann that his contract would not be extended. “Personnel decisions are always challenging tasks” that stirred emotions, writes President Keller, and the board of directors enjoys “the full trust of the Presidium”. And: One is “grateful for any criticism”, because it helps to improve the association. From the association it is said that Trautmann had to leave “because he is uncomfortable and speaks his mind”.
Regarding the allegations that there were communication problems, Trautmann says: “This is not a cuddly zoo.”
But Trautmann himself also knows that other things were said behind the scenes that might have contributed to his dismissal. It is said that he has lost contact with the team, or that you cannot talk to him. There is talk of communication problems. Trautmann says that he has always had a professional, sometimes friendly relationship with his athletes, and that conversations have always been possible. At the same time, however, he also emphasizes “that the athletes must provide a reason if they want a change of plan”. Some were not used to having to fight for their position. “It’s not a cuddly zoo,” says Trautmann. The reactions of the athletes to his expulsion were then also very mixed.
Since Trautmann has not yet received any severance pay, he has called on a lawyer. He hopes to settle the matter out of court. After all, there is one thing that the former national coach no longer has to worry about. His successor Pedro Guedes has to thin out the squad by the end of the year, Trautmann speaks of ten to 14 athletes who will lose their place, among other things to make room for young athletes. “It’s a thankless task that I wouldn’t have enjoyed either,” says Trautmann. It has now been taken from him.