Hello. I am Dirk. Do you know what I'm doing?" This is how Dirk Schneemann introduces himself to a tennis player in the lounge of the Regional Service Center in Stuttgart-Stammheim. The 14- year-old girl nods, throwing Schneemann an anxious look. "You look people in the face and tell them if they have the talent needed to play tennis. Right?" the girl replies softly. "Yes, that's right. You, for example, have a very interesting face. Can I look at the back of your head too?" asks the 41-year-old in a calm and pleasant voice. The girl agrees.
Time to think
30 seconds of silence go by. Fed Cup boss Barbara Rittner waits anxiously. After all, she was the one who brought the "human reader" to her federal base in Stuttgart, drew his attention to the young girl and asked him to take a closer look at her.
This approach is important to Rittner because it is not always easy to find new talents in tennis. The player's condition, lack of motivation and concentration are factors that can lead even a professional to loss. It's the same with the youth. Even if only one of these factors is present, a talent may go unnoticed. In order to prevent this from occurring during a search for talent, Barbara Rittner hired Dirk Schneemann. He calls himself "a developer of potential" and claims to be able to use the face and the shape of the head as a basis to judge if tennis-specific potential exists. A coaching team will use his findings to develop players' potential as fully as possible.
I am very critical as a person. When I first learned about Dirk, I thought it was all crap. But he convinced me of the opposite in ten minutes. He was 100 percent right about everything.
The Head As An Open Book
30 seconds have passed, and Dirk Schneemann is ready. He tells the young tennis player that she has a lot of potential. "Look here, above the eyebrows - there is a very peculiar form, turning to the outside. That tells me that you are able to access information very fast. Taking that and the nose and chin into consideration, I see you have extremely strong willpower and the necessary "bite" to test your physical limits."
"That's true," agree Barbara Rittner and her protégé unanimously. And the psycho- physiognomist from Hanover - this is the real job title of the "developer of potential" - goes on. He lets the girl know that her real growth spurt has yet to occur. "From time to time, you need to consciously slow down during training. You have to force yourself to take longer training breaks. Otherwise you catapult out of sheer ambition over your goal - to become a top player - and the opposite will occur."
Nintendo as a Training Opportunity
Later, he draws Barbara Rittner's attention to what she should aim for when training with the girl. "Such talks always take place in agreement with the player," says the expert, who gives another unconventional tip after learning that the talented junior player has few opportunities to train at home, but wants to improve her reaction time: "Just play Nintendo separately from the daily training program for 30 minutes. You can improve your reaction time in a simple way. After all, playing tennis is also about picking up information quickly. Since the foot reaction is directly linked to the hand reaction, this can improve your overall responsiveness." His words of warning: "Don't overdo it."
The art of psycho- and physiognomy is a theoretically substantiated. Schneemann is sure that he can make out characteristics and talents based on the contours and proportions of face and skull. He places the face in a tension field and divides it into three zones, all of which are related. For example, the jaw area shows physical strength, assertiveness, and perseverance. In physiognomy, the middle area shows emotional expressiveness and sensitivity, but also artistic talent. The full range of emotions plays out here. The forehead area shows mental strength, the way a person thinks. The eyes express feelings.
According to Schneemann, the back of the head gives information about a person's motor skills. If they are particularly well-developed or have the potential of being, there is a bulge at the back of the head. "Everything that is protruding is highly developed, and everything that goes inwards is less so" - this is the Hanover entrepreneur's explanation of the various bumps, arches and bulges at the back of the head. Generally, these arches are an indication of increased cell growth in the underlying brain area.
Science or quack?
Fed Cup boss and support base manager Barbara Rittner has been working with the developer of potential more and more often recently. She is impressed by his knowledge of the "hilly landscape" at the back of junior women players' heads and his ability to judge whether these young talents will make it into the top 10 in the world due to their predisposition. "I am very critical as a person. When I first learned about Dirk, I thought it was all crap. But he convinced me of the opposite in ten minutes. He was 100 percent right about everything."