DC Stoddert Soccer is proud to introduce a new interview series with former club participants, coaches and volunteer alumni entitled, “Where are they now?” In this issue, we spoke with Michael Klain, a junior at Harvard University and member of the Men’s Varsity Soccer Team. Michael learned how to kick, pass, juggle, dribble and play the Beautiful Game over a period of fourteen years with DC Stoddert Soccer.
At DC Stoddert Soccer, we aim to encourage youth participation in soccer in the greater Washington metropolitan area, and provide supervised games and practices for boys and girls, ages 5-18. Many families and players that get involved with the club do so whole heartedly, and one former player who took full advantage of everything that the club offers is alumnus, Michael Klain.
Klain, 20, is a junior at Harvard University pursuing a degree in economics. He began his soccer experience at the tender age of four and stayed with the club until he completed high school. He started in the club’s recreational league and was coached by his mother, Monica Medina, who he credits with being a major part of his soccer development.
“My Mom was the one that really made me fall in love with the game, and that has provided my motivation in the years since,” said Klain.
At the tender age of nine, Klain tried out and was offered a spot on one of the club’s Under-9 travel teams. It was here that his passion for the sport escalated and began to push Klain’s desire to play at the college level. Like many millions of young players across the globe, Klain had soccer idols that he looked up to and admired.
“Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Landon Donavon – but I didn’t necessarily try to emulate any of them. I enjoyed learning what I could from them, but tried to develop my own playing style based on what would help move our team forward.”
Michael spent the best part of 14 years with the club and accumulated many memories along the way, but when asked if he has one singular shining moment, he paused for a second and remarked about the people and places the game took him during his youth.
“To reduce that time into one singular moment couldn’t possibly do it justice. I truly enjoyed every moment I got to spend with my teammates and learning from my amazing coaches.”
Here’s a sampling of Klain’s top three significant moments during his Stoddert experience:
- Upsetting one of the best teams in the state, 3-2, while en route to a surprising quarterfinal trip;
- Scoring two goals in the final minute of a state cup game to come back and win 2-1;
- When his team defeated the defending state cup champions in a hailstorm.
“While these moments were great, they really serve as benchmarks that help me remember all the time I spent working hard and having fun with my teammates and coaches during my time as a DC Stoddert soccer player.”
Throughout his years at DC Stoddert, Klain had help from many club coaches and credits their techniques and insight on the game as a major factor in his growth and success at the collegiate level.
“I’ve had a number of great coaches during my time at DC Stoddert, and I’d like to thank Sona Walla and Felix for all of their help and guidance.” However, He goes onto to credit one individual who had a great influence on his soccer career. “The coach I spent the most time with, though, was Evans Malyi. Evans has done so much to help me develop as a player and, more importantly, a person. I had the privilege of playing for Evans for about 10 years, and continue to be in touch with him to this day. He taught me almost everything that I know about soccer, and really helped transform me into the player I am today. I can’t thank him enough for all of the time, energy, and effort that he put into my development, the development of my teammates, and the development of our team as a whole.”
At DC Stoddert, player development is central to the club’s mission and priorities as a youth sports organization. For Klain, the impact of this is tied to his mother and coach, Evans Malyi.
“They both taught me so much about the game, with my mother providing me passion and Evans providing me direction. I wouldn’t be where I am today without either of them, and of course many others.”
Although player development is key it doesn’t just stop on the field. Developing the individual is also paramount to the holistic approach taken by the club to impart knowledge of the game through teamwork, dedication to detail and self-discipline – all of which have been a part of Klain’s youth soccer career.
“DC Stoddert played a key role in developing how I approach life at Harvard. In terms of soccer, I played with the club my entire life before coming to Harvard, so my development as a player is entirely thanks to DC Stoddert. I think more importantly though, my teammates and coaches, especially Evans, helped teach me how to approach the game, how to be a member of a team, and how to be a leader. I still use the same approach on a day-to-day basis that I learned and developed throughout my time as a player for DC Stoddert.”
When asked about how he balances academics and varsity athletics at Harvard, Klain praised his club coaches for the strong influence and life lessons they taught him and his teammates, particularly during the high school.
“DC Stoddert taught me how to set goals, and what steps to take to reach those goals. At Harvard, I set goals on the soccer field, in the classroom, as well as other realms of life, and take the same steps to reach those goals as I did when I was a player at DC Stoddert.”
Looking beyond college, Klain is already hard at work planning for his future and considering possible steps towards a career and/or additional education.
“Right now, I am still thinking about what I want to do and weighing a number of options. I would love to continue my soccer career for as long as possible, but will need to develop significantly as a player over the next few years. I look forward to this challenge, and seeing what else might be in my future.”
Klain’s advice to players at the middle and high school levels is sound and upward, “have a clear vision of your goals, and not be afraid of how ambitious they might be.” This is shown in his own aspirations as a youth player, “I dreamed about playing soccer in college growing up, but there were a number of times when it seemed like I wouldn’t make it. A lot of times I found myself thinking I shouldn’t work as hard, or give so much effort because that would make it hurt even worse if I didn’t make it. But I learned from my teammates, my parents, and from Evans that fear of failure isn’t an acceptable reason not to go for something. So I’d say have a clear, but flexible vision of your goals, and don’t back down from them; instead, do everything you can to make them happen.”
Klain’s story of a local boy who has gone on to play as an NCAA Division 1 athlete at Harvard University is a remarkable one, and one that the club is very proud of. Well done, Michael, well done.