COLUMBIA — With the transitory lifestyle that embodies the world today, meeting someone who has stayed in one place with the same job seems rare.
The Columbia College men’s soccer coach, John Klein, is the exception to that rarity. For the past 10 years, Klein has been the Cougar men’s soccer coach, and his longevity has paid off.
After the 2009 season ended with a loss in the second round of the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship in Fresno, Calif., Klein has won more games than any other soccer coach in Cougar history. After 10 years, Klein’s record is 123-64-14.
Klein takes a humble approach to his success and his role in the Columbia College community.
“I don’t feel that important to the Columbia College community,” he said.
But over the past 10 years, Klein has become a fixture in both the Columbia College community and in Columbia. He has dedicated a lot of time, effort and expertise in making sure his players have the best experience possible. And it starts with Klein’s passion for the game.
Klein played for two years at Duke University and then finished up his collegiate career playing for St. Louis University. It was during his college playing that he thought he would someday like to become a coach, but not before an opportunity to play professionally.
Klein played professionally for eight years. He played both outdoor and indoor soccer. His outdoor experience included playing for the American Professional Soccer League on the Colorado Foxes and on the Miami Freedom. He played for the St. Louis Ambush, the Kansas City Comets and the St. Louis Storm to round out his indoor experience.
As Klein’s professional career came to a close, he decided to get his Master of Business Administration degree at MU. The Columbia College men’s soccer coach at the time, Dan Hogan, was looking for help. When Klein wasn’t in class, he was volunteering as Hogan’s assistant.
“I enjoyed working with the boys,” Klein said of the experience.
After his MBA studies were over, Klein spent three years working a corporate job in Kansas City. Hogan was leaving. Klein said he wasn’t sure if he could make the move, but he stayed up late one night to write a cover letter and resume. The job was offered, and now, here he is 10 years later.
“I don’t know what else I would do at this point,” Klein said. “It has been a great opportunity.”
The level of training intensity Klein experienced at the professional level has prepared him well to be a coach.
“I understand what the players need,” he said.
That understanding also makes Klein’s expectations high.
“I’m not shy to demand more from players,” he said.
Klein is able to balance the intensity with an appreciation for what they do on the field. The players don’t seem to mind the intensity.
“I think his motivation gets the best out of players,” senior captain Lloyd Jacobs said.
Klein’s influence doesn’t stop at Columbia College. Klein is also involved in the youth soccer program in Columbia. He coaches both his son's and daughter’s youth soccer teams. He says he loves watching them grow in soccer.
“My whole life revolves around the soccer field," Klein said. "I expect to be doing this another 20 years or so.”
Klein’s dedication to soccer doesn’t come without its challenges. Just managing a group of young men can be difficult. Klein says he wants to give them direction, but it is not always easy. With different levels of athletes, it can be hard to get everyone on the same page.
Regardless, the Cougar soccer team provides a brotherhood for its players.
“Soccer is a world game, and we bring these guys under one umbrella," Klein said. "They can go on to be outstanding citizens."
For senior Andrew Will, there is no denying Klein’s influence.
“Coach Klein has taught me that it is more than just winning. It is playing hard and performing with integrity, and most importantly, doing it with class," Will said. "He has shown me that it isn't about being the best, it is about having the ambition and the heart to play the game we love. With him instilling these characteristics in me, it has not only helped me become a better player, but a better person on and off the field."