Commentary

Beware of first impressions: World Cup stars remind us

By Mike Woitalla

The U.S. women's national team has given us some wonderful examples of how one can't draw conclusions about a player's potential based on their early time in the sport.

Christen Press, who scored in the USA’s 3-1 opening win over Australia at the Women’s World Cup, told us how she went her entire first season in youth soccer so intimidated she never touched the ball.

Meghan Klingenberg, the dynamic left back who has been one the top U.S. players so far at the World Cup, told Gwendolyn Oxenham in a USSoccer.com article that in her first season she was, “by far the worst on the team.”

“The coach would be like, ‘We’re going to put in Meghan’ -- and everybody would be like, ‘Great, now we’re going to lose.’ I was that bad,” Klingenberg said.

Her father, Daniel joked: “When she played, her mother and I would try to hide.”

By age 16, Klingenberg made the Region 1 ODP team and she was selected to the U-17 national team in 2005. After club ball at Penns Forest, the Pittsburgh native starred at North Carolina, where she won two NCAA titles.

Klingenberg, the USA’s smallest player at 5-foot-2, also excelled taekwondo, which her father figured would help her overcome her shyness, until focusing solely on soccer while at Pine-Richland High School.

She shared more glimpses into her childhood in U.S. Soccer’s "One Nation. One Team" video series:

“I grew up in Pittsburgh. My parents were great. They would come to all my games. They were working parents but they always made time for us. They would go to work in the mornings, come home in the afternoons, and go out in the yard and play for an hour until the sun went down with us. Playing softball, soccer -- whatever we wanted to do that day.”

Back to youth soccer, she remembers:

“I remember one game I get kicked really hard in my shin and I go down. I’m about to cry. I’m laying there on my back. And all of a sudden I hear my mom going, ‘Get up! You’re fine!’ … So I’m, OK. She says I’m fine. I must be fine. So I get up and start playing. That’s kind of how my childhood was. Never letting me slack off and making sure I was a tough kid.”

Development Academy playoff groups set

Playoffs for the Development Academy’s U-15/16 and U-17/18 divisions take place June 23-26 in Westfield, Ind. The qualifiers were determined through 21 automatic qualification spots and 11 wild-card berths. The U-15/16 and U-17/18 Academy Championships will be held at the U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center in Carson, Calif., July 16 and 18.

Past Champions U-15/16
2014 LA Galaxy
2013 Real Salt Lake AZ
2012 New York Red Bulls
2011 LA Galaxy
2010 Chicago Fire
2009 Derby County Wolves
2008 Carmel United

Past Champions U-17/18
2014 PDA
2013 New York Red Bulls
2012 FC Dallas
2011 Pateadores
2010 Vardar SC
2009 Carmel United
2008 Baltimore Bays

See this year’s playoff groupings HERE.

US Youth Soccer streaming

USYouthSoccer.org will stream more than 110 National Championship Series and US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup games.

2015 US Youth Soccer Broadcast Schedule
Region II Championships June 24 U15-19 Finals
Region IV Championships June 28 U14-18 Finals
National Presidents Cup July 12 TBA Finals
National Championships July 21-26 Group Play, U14-18 Semifinals, U13-19 Finals

Soccer trumps football

A YouGov poll of 1,000 adults found that 24 percent of those surveyed picked soccer when asked which sport they would be most likely to suggest “if a child who didn’t play any sports wanted to take one up.” Only 4 percent picked football. “Baseball or softball” led with 30 percent while basketball came in at 15 percent.

2 comments about "Beware of first impressions: World Cup stars remind us ".
  1. uffe gustafsson, June 19, 2015 at 4:16 p.m.

    I think we all seen that, at early age the tall big strong kid is always the star. And the smaller kids have rely on skills. But when they grow up the big kid is no longer the star and very often quit soccer. Foot skills will always prevail.

  2. Ginger Peeler, June 19, 2015 at 4:56 p.m.

    My daughter was always the smallest or second-smallest on the team...recreational, traveling, ODP and college. But, besides the foot skills, she read the game exceptionally well and her stamina was bottomless.

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