Michael Kleinert has been coaching soccer teams and individual players for the past 13 years and he has some hardware to show for it. Among the trophies his Concord Arsenal and Hockessin Frost teams have won are seven youth state cup championships. He also led A.I. duPont High School to the girls state championship in 1996.
Michael Kleinert has been coaching soccer teams and individual players for the past 13 years and he has some hardware to show for it.
Among the trophies his Concord Arsenal and Hockessin Frost teams have won are seven youth state cup championships and A.I. duPont High School's girls state championship in 1996.
Kleinert, who established MIG Soccer in 1997, coaches year-round for both boys and girls of all ages, from 4 years old to college.
As a teacher, Kleinert intuitively knows that sometimes his students can teach him things.
“You'll be amazed at what the players will teach you,” he said. “Most adults are operating according to an outdated mentality. The kids are way ahead of us in terms of leadership and discipline and it can be a lot of fun to learn and implement.”
Kleinert entered coaching with a pedigree, after playing professionally for the Delaware Wizards. Earlier, he played for the University of Maryland on a scholarship and was captain of the 1988 Calvert Hall (Md.) High School team, ranked No. 4 nationally by USA Today.
The Community News chatted with Kleinert about coaching and the local soccer talent he has helped mold over the years.
Q How do Delaware players compare to the players you competed against growing up in Maryland?
A It is very difficult to compare players from that time in Maryland to players today in Delaware. I was fortunate to be exposed to some excellent coaches and even one who was truly world class. I believe that the growth in soccer's popularity has put more players in the game than ever before in this country. There used to be two or three tournaments per year and they really meant something. Now, tournaments are everywhere and they mean big money. Families are spending an enormous amount of money on soccer now and have little to show for it. The emphasis is on competing rather than on learning and it changes the player. Today's better youth players are battle-hardened at an early age, but lack the ability or willingness to be productively creative. When you play in high-pressure situations at an early age the players usually adapt in a negative way. They develop a fear of losing that prevents them from taking risks.
Unfortunately, you could say that this country is getting better at developing average players.
Q What is one key to being an effective coach?
A To be an effective coach today you have to look at who you are coaching. Are you coaching soccer? Are you coaching a team? Or are you coaching a person? I try to remember that I am coaching a person, no matter what their age.
Q Name someone who has had a major influence on your style of coaching.
A Graham Ramsay has had a tremendous influence in my life. [He] was the coach for my U-19 team, Bethesda Alliance. We finished 3rd in the 1990 National Championship. He is a brilliant coach and mentor. Graham cares about the game, about kids, and about learning.
Q What is your single biggest day-to-day challenge?
A Preparing training exercises. I am always trying to create a better learning environment for the players. That amounts to dissecting the game, or a particular skill, into parts for the player to re-assemble. It has to make sense to the player and it has to relate to the big picture. To me, this is at the heart of what coaching is today. The "Go get 'em" speech just doesn't cut it for developing soccer players. The soccer player of the future must have awareness, mobility, skill, intelligence, self-reliance and personality.
Q What is the best advice you’ve gotten/given?
A We are born with two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Let's learn to use them proportionately.
Q Where do you see yourself in five years?
A Five years from now I will be right here doing exactly what I'm doing right now...but I'll be five years better.
Do you know of an athlete or coach worthy of profiling? If so, contact reporter Tony Prado at email@example.com.