Michigan women’s head coach Jennifer Klein is quick to agree that soccer is a very emotional game and losing control of your emotions can cost a team a game and a player a career.
“Soccer and golf are two sports with a lot of emotion,” said Klein, who took over the Wolverines this season after spending the last four seasons at the University of Southern California, including the last three as USC’s associate head coach.
“It’s all about managing your level of emotions. Soccer is a very emotional game and being able to manage those emotions allows players to be more consistent. You don’t want to be too high and you don’t want to be too low. One of the qualities of a great player is that they are still able to contribute even if they are not having a good game. They don’t get down on themselves and figure out a way to help the team. Same goes when you are going really well. It’s about managing your energy levels.”
Klein also is an assistant coach with the U.S. Soccer U-19 women’s national team and recently traveled with the U-18 program for games in La Manga, Spain against England, Netherlands and Norway. She deals with players at different levels of their development, and as a former standout player herself, is well aware of the process to become an elite player.
“You have to constantly remind them that this is a process,” said Klein, a four-year letter-winner (2002-05) and two-time team captain at the University of Arizona. “As you make your way through your career from playing youth soccer to club to high school to college you are going to have those highs and lows. It’s a very common and natural experience to go through. You are constantly trying to push yourself and any time you go into a new environment there are always that time of learning and often times it knocks you down. The key is how long it takes for you to get back up and rise to where you were better than where you started.”
In addition to her work with the U-19 women’s national team, Klein worked for four years as a coach with U.S. Soccer’s LA Market Training Center, part of a national platform designed to improve player identification, player development and coach development for the national team. She also has coached club teams and regional Olympic Development Program teams during her tenures at UNLV and Arizona.
“The process of getting better is never a straight line,” said Klein, who earned her master’s degree in athletic administration at UNLV in May 2011. “It’s a line with ups and downs. I’ve always worked with youth and college players and they are not professionals. There are going to be inconsistencies in their careers and in their development. Coaches and parents need to remind them that they are young players learning the game and it is all part of the learning process.”