"I've always watched coaches. How they work, how they behave, how they communicate," said Sergi Runge – in very good German it has to be said. He started learning German at the age of three and went to a Swiss school in his hometown of Barcelona at the age of ten. In his career to date, Runge has not had to rely on his knowledge of German – until March of this year when he answered the call from Bayer 04.
Up to the end of last season, the Spaniard was assistant coach to Thomas Zdebel in the U17 Bundesliga West as well as to the caretaker coach Markus Daun in the final run-in. The management of the Bayer 04 youth section completely reorganised the structures and responsibilities in the summer and they appointed Runge as head coach of the Leverkusen U17 team. A role where the newcomer is able to call on his comprehensive experience from his career to date.
At the age of 16, Sergi Runge opted to work as a youth coach in addition to his own football career. His first job on the touchline was at Unió Barcelonista Catalonia where he was assistant coach in the U12 team. In his search for a suitable post he was helped by the fact that the father of his best friend at school was the youth coordinator at the club – Runge learned early on how to use and care for contacts. That was also true later on at the University of Barcelona.
Runge also made use of free time in the holidays at university: For a number of years, he used to drive six hours by car to Alicante every summer with his fellow coach Pere Romeu, "because we knew that there was a very good coach (Fran Beltrán, now U18 coach at Real Madrid, ed.) working there. We spent a week there and compared notes with different coaches from the region." All with the target of one day being in the dugout at a professional club.
Sergi Runge ended his playing career at the age of 19 after playing at the highest youth level in Spain against Barcelona and other clubs. He went on to coach at the Hristo Stoichkov School That used the methodology of the former FCB youth coordinator Laureano Ruiz. "I learned a lot from that time," said Runge who fully dedicated himself to coaching in addition to studying for his masters degree. That led him to the Spanish third tier club Unió Esportiva Cornellà – here he signed his first contract as a full-time coach at the age of 25.
One day, a certain duo called Augustin Lleida and Vidal Paloma approached Runge. The Spaniards had worked together in setting up the youth performance centre at the Costa Rican top-flight club Deportivo Alajuelense. Lleida, then sporting director at Alajuelense, and head of youth Paloma were looking for fellow countrymen who could train the local talent as youth coach – and they found Runge. "They dug deeper at the Catalonian Association. I was then lucky that a couple of teachers said good things about me," revealed Runge.
It was a big move and not just because of the distance. "I'd never been in America before and I went over there all on my own," said Sergi Runge. "But I definitely wanted to do it. Working 24 hours, seven days a week as a coach is my big desire." The Spaniard coached the U17s in the mornings and the U14 squad in the afternoons and he later moved up to the senior squad as assistant coach. Runge was "very happy" on the other side of the Atlantic. The job in Costa Rica ended after 18 months due to an offer from his home country, which he said "definitely didn't happen every day."
Runge joined Barcelona. The club where he had a season ticket with his father for years and enjoyed the great feast of football at the famous Camp Nou. He worked as assistant coach for the U16 squad at the world famous youth academy La Masia and there he coached the current Leverkusen U19 striker Iker Bravo. The youth coach is certain that one or the other talents from the FCB youth team back then will "play at the Camp Nou in the next few years."
Sergi Runge finally swapped La Masia for Bayer 04 in March of this year. After four months as the U17 assistant coach, the Spaniard was appointed head coach of the U17s in the summer. Asked about the comparison between Barcelona and Bayer 04, Runge highlighted the similar and very good conditions in the youth sections.
Runge is happy in Leverkusen, he has his girlfriend with him and several Spanish colleagues at the club who he regularly spends time with away from the club. Runge primarily does a lot with Alberto Encinas and Ismael Camenforte Lopez from the Werkself coaching staff and Erik Roqueta (U19 fitness coach). Although there is rather less time for that these days.
Last week, the fine-tuning was completed at the training camp in Tegelen in the Netherlands ahead of the first competitive match of the season on Saturday 13 August. At the start of the new season in the U17 Bundesliga West, Leverkusen entertain newly promoted Sportfreunde Siegen. The kick-off at the Kurtekotten Performance Centre is at 11.00 CEST. That will be the first time in the dugout for Sergi Runge as head coach of the Black and Red U17s...
Sergi Runge profile:
Date of birth: 11.12.1993
At Bayer 04 since: March 2022
Previous coaching positions: Bayer 04 Leverkusen U17, FC Barcelona U16/Spain (assistant coach), Liga Deportiva Alajuelense/Costa Rica (assistant coach & U17 head coach), Unió Esportiva Cornellà U16/Spain, Centre d’Esports L’Hospitalet U14/Spain, Escuela Hristo Stoitchkov U12/Spain, Unió Barcelonista Catalonia U12/Spain
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