Until November 2012 the German men’s senior national team was far away for Kevin Schmidt.
The 24-year-old left wing had played a strong season with HSG Wetzlar and could look back at a very successful 2009 Junior World Championship in Egypt where the German junior national team with Kevin Schmidt had won the title.
But back in November 2012 it was not seen that he would be on the edge of making the national team for the 2013 World Championship in Spain.
However, when Uwe Gensheimer (Rhein-Neckar Löwen) was severely injured, Kevin Schmidt suddenly found himself on the German 28-player squad list for Spain – without having played any international match on ther senior level before.
When head coach Martin Heuberger announced his final squad for Spain, Schmidt was still part of the team – and on 2 January he played his first international senior match for Germany, a friendly against Sweden.
Two more test matches followed, and suddenly Kevin Schmidt had landed in Spain, wearing the German national team's jersey.
The young gun played an astonishing tournament. Even all the experienced players were surprised about the Schmidt's performances, who still lives in his parent’s house near Wetzlar.
Heuberger selected the newcomer as first choice for penalty shots and even in the decisive matches against France and FYR Macedonia, Schmidt scored on almost every occasion.
With his reckless, fresh and bold style of handball, Schmidt became one of the stars in the German team.
His name was mentioned often when the talk came down to the full transition in the German team that Heuberger had started.
Heuberger was Schmidt’s coach in the junior team, and like with others he trusted his left wing, who paid it back. Nowadays Kevin Schmidt is part of the national team, but he is humble enough to know that this success will not last, if he does not keep working for it, as he tells ehf-euro.com.
ehf-euro.com: How did you start playing handball?
Kevin Schmidt: Some friends at my primary school already played handball and they asked me to join them. I liked the first training session so much that I applied for my player’s pass for this club straight away.
ehf-euro.com: And when did you know that you want to become a professional player?
Kevin Schmidt: I think, when I was 16 years old. At that time I played for the quite successful junior team of HSG Pohlheim, in which the training sessions and the surroundings were on a very professional level. That's where my dream matured to have handball as my future profession.
ehf-euro.com: How important were the youth and junior national teams – including all the titles you won (2009 U21 world champion, 2008 Men's 20 EHF EURO silver medallist) – for your development?
Kevin Schmidt: It is always an advantage if you can face the best. Already in the youth national team we were playing for medals and titles, so we all learnt to cope with pressure very early.
The time in the junior team was very educational. But still it was completely different to being part of the senior team.
ehf-euro.com: What impact did coach Martin Heuberger have on your career?
Kevin Schmidt: He was the coach, who nominated me for the junior team. He fully trusted me and gave the whole team a real boost. Of course, the icing on the cake was to become world champions in Egypt.
ehf-euro.com: How important was it to switch to a Bundesliga club when you moved to Wetzlar in 2006?
Kevin Schmidt: My former coach Volker Mudrow promoted me from the second team to the professional Bundesliga team, where I immediately gained a lot of playing time. After two years I advanced to be the first choice on my position.
ehf-euro.com: You rapidly became much more popular during the World Championship in Spain. What has changed since?
Kevin Schmidt: The media interest indood was huge after the tournament in Spain, but now the Bundesliga is in full swing, so my focus is on my club – and the world championship is already history. It was a brilliant experience, but now I have to prove my performances in every match for my team.
ehf-euro.com: Even as you might have answered this question already a 1000 times: How do you explain your rapid rise – and when did you recognise that you will be part of the German world championship team?
Kevin Schmidt: When Uwe Gensheimer could not go to Spain, I received a phone call from Martin Heuberger that I will get promoted to the national team to join my first preparation camp.
At the same time he told me that I have chances to be in the team for the world championship, if I present myself in a good way in terms of preparation. In every training and every test match I gave it all I had. And finally I was sure that I will play in Spain when I was sitting in the plane to Barcelona. It was brilliant!
ehf-euro.com: What are your future ambitions, concerning your club career and the national team?
Kevin Schmidt: On the club side we want to continue our success which we had in the first half of the season. Personally, I want to improve from match to match and to increase my performing level.
Concerning the national team my major goal is to remain part of the team. Therefore I have to put the pedal to the metal in every club match to put myself forward for the national team coach.
ehf-euro.com: Wetzlar are currently not among those teams that play in EHF European Cup competitions. What would those international appearances mean to you?
Kevin Schmidt: It is the goal of every sportsman to face the best, and in handball the best means to play on international level.
ehf-euro.com: Do you see yourself already as a starting line-up player in the national team after your performances in Spain?
Kevin Schmidt: I see myself as a part of the team. In our team it does not matter, who is on the court. It is our goal to be successful as a team – and in Spain we have been successful, as everybody helped the others and gave his contribution for the team. But, of course, everybody wants to be on the court and play.
eurohandball.com: Germany are currently in the qualification for EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark – and started quite weak with a home defeat against Montenegro and a close victory at Israel. Are you still confident that Germany will make it to Denmark?
Kevin Schmidt: If we play like in Spain, we will qualify – and I am 100 percent confident that we can do this.