U.S. Olympian Meghan Klingenberg: Build model youth sports athletes
By Greg Bach
Meghan Klingenberg’s earliest youth soccer memories are vivid – and incredibly heart wrenching.
At age 6 she was, like many kids who enter organized sports for the first time, timid and shy.
It suffocated her ability to enjoy being part of a team and deprived her of the fun that should accompany participating in sports.
“It was embarrassing,” recalls the 2016 U.S. Olympic Soccer team defender and 2015 World Cup champion. “I was shut out from the team because I wasn’t good enough. Those are hard feelings to deal with, regardless of what age you are.”
Strangley enough, her life-changing moment came from the Taekwondo class her dad enrolled her in, which kicked her shyness to the curb for good.
Armed with her new-found confidence her love for sports – especially soccer – soared.
We caught up with the tenacious and hard-working 27-year-old – she played every minute of every game during the U.S. team’s march to World Cup glory last year. She shared her thoughts on coaching and encouraging kids, and what it’s like to wear the Red, White and Blue on the world’s biggest stage.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: If you were talking to a group of volunteer coaches working with players in the 8 to 12 age range what would be your message to them?
KLINGENBERG: The message should be about helping the kids be their best selves. Help them to understand how to be a good human being while teaching through sport.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: When you look back on all the coaches you played for growing up what type of impact did they have on you as both an athlete and a person?
KLINGENBERG: I learned a lot from playing sports and from my coaches. Most importantly, I learned how to be comfortable with myself, which isn’t easy as a young girl.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Growing up, what did your soccer coaches do to make practices something you enjoyed coming to and participating in?
KLINGENBERG: The best things my coaches did for me was making the practices competitive. I loved competing and taking on my teammates. Being competitive was fun.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s your advice for volunteer coaches to help their young players deal with the pressure they feel to perform with mom and dad watching in the stands?
KLINGENBERG: I would recommend for the coaches to stress to kids to play for fun. Encourage the kids to strive for their personal excellence and that’s the best they can do.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What sports did you play growing up?
KLINGENBERG: I played a lot of sports. I played soccer, softball, basketball and took Taekwondo.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What’s it like to play for your country with the world watching?
KLINGENBERG: It’s an honor to represent the United States on such a big stage. I love pulling on the uniform because I know that at every game we have the best fans in the world who are behind us.
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