In the piece, which highlights Klinsmann's mission to reinvent the way the entire American soccer system operates, Leitch presents a quote from the former German superstar that neatly captures the essence of the game and how it's coached and played:
"When you talk to coaches and parents, it's very difficult for them sometimes to understand that the kid in soccer is self-taught. Coaches, different from baseball, basketball and American football, with a lot of timeouts and plays and all that stuff, are really just more the inspiration of the whole thing -- the guide, in a certain way. But he's not the decision maker on the field. This is a very different approach. Parents and coaches think they are making the decisions. I tell them, no, you're not making the decision. The decision is made by the kid on the field. So maybe here and there you should just shut up and let the kid figure it out."As the parent of a (lower-level) travel soccer player and a member of the Board of Directors of the largest soccer club in Virginia, I say that there's ground truth in that statement. And as someone who's stood on the sidelines while other parents on my daughter's team incessantly coach their kids (often in direct contradiction to their actual coach) during games, I wince a little bit at the distance between today's American mindset and Klinsmann's vision. One of the parents on the team went so far as to buy a giant bag of lollipops and pass them out to the other parents before a game - it's become a bit of a tradition now.
If I'm being honest, I'm guilty of that same sin myself, more often than I'd like to admit. Even as I try really hard just to offer words of encouragement, my own competitive nature gets to me too often.
As a parent in modern society, I think Klinsmann's words offer lessons far beyond the field. Too many times too many of us seek to control our kids' actions and activities. Far too infrequently do we let them make their own decisions, and by definition, their own mistakes. It's an instinct in myself that I wrestle with - nobody wants their kids to get hurt, physically or emotionally, but sometimes that's how they learn. My youngest daughter has some soccer talent, but she's an exceptionally lazy kid (thanks, Dad!). She's watched other players on her team surpass her skill level because they've worked hard on their technique outside of practice. As a result, she's probably going to drop down a level in our Club's ladder of teams.
I could demand that she practice at home, force her to get outside and dribble, but at some point you can't want something for your kid more than she does. It's an opportunity for her to decide how hard she's willing to work, how much she actually cares about something. So I'll listen to Jurgen and just shut up and let the kid figure it out.
And buy a shitload of lollipops.