Skip to content

Breakfast with United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann: Today’s topic – individual improvement

Dec 6, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

Klinsmann-Mexico

I was among a small group of journalists who had breakfast late last week with Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. national team coach whose methods and player selection tendencies can sometimes lean to the less conventional. The results so far have been mostly favorable, even if the aesthetic hasn’t always risen to expectation.

Over the next week or so, we will extract one element each day of the extremely informative conversation, where Klinsmann expanded candidly on subjects ranging from Jozy Altidore to evolving player roles to Jermaine Jones to future matches and all points in between.

Today’s topic: Embracing discontent

Somewhere, somehow, Jurgen Klinsmann’s chief vehicle for United States national team improvement got lost in translation.

We all got this notion that Klinsmann’s chief method for program progress was getting the team into a more aggressive mindset on the field, to attack a little more, doing so with a  certain loveliness in the craft. So there has been grumbling and grousing when the games have looked, in critics’ minds, a little too similar to games under former manager Bob Bradley.

No question that Klinsmann wants his team to attack a little more. And he surely wants to create a “no kick ball” zone.

But that’s not really the main emphasis of his quest for U.S. progress. If we pinpointed the presiding initiative of Klinsmann’s time in charge, it would be his drive to hammer into every single player the blessedness of discontent.

Those are my words, not his. But they fit.

It’s about getting more from the talent in place.  More specifically, it’s about getting the players to get more from themselves. It’s about them becoming greedy for self improvement, about having the drive and determination to get there in a comprehensive way. This comes up in every single conversation that lasts more than three minutes with the 48-year-old German.

“Everything has a purpose. If it’s food, if it’s recovery, if it’s training itself. And they went through that learning process [in the last few months], and they are starting to appreciate it. Even if it’s a little more demanding, even for the European players. Because I know what they do [in training] in Europe. I know the rhythm.

“We want to make them understand, we are trying to move up!  We can only get better, we can only get closer to the best in the world if we do more than them. We are not getting to their level if we do less. Or even the same! We only get better if we work more, do more, and talk more … make them understand they have to be professional off the field as well, they need sleep, that they need the right food, all those lessons. It’s coming along. But it’s a process. They are not changing their habits [in one day].”

“Some guys are greedy for it. ‘Tell me, tell me …!’

And then the contrast …

“Some guys are used to training once a day, having off, then they lay in bed until 11 … ”

Klinsmann said he was lucky to have recognized this as a young player. He quickly gained the appreciation of the extra session or added emphasis in a certain area. Do the extra work, he figured out, and he could move past players, figuratively and literally.

source: Getty Images

“And it gives you confidence. The last 15 minutes in a game, that’s the time I was waiting for. “OK, I am going to kill you guys now.’ ” .. When the players understand that, If I add another session a week, or two, or maybe a run here or there, it’s for the players. You are not running for the coach. If you feel better, strong, if you recover faster, if you eat cleaner, if you live a bit more conscious, it will pay off for you.

“Maybe it’s a good question to ask Eddie [Johnson], ‘What do you think? You are 28 or 29 now. Are there some things you could have done better?’ It would be an interesting discussion.

“It’s a culture. The culture is still that, ‘This is a team sport and I go with whatever the team demands.’ But that’s not the culture for a top athlete.”

The longer U.S. camps always begin with tests of stability, flexibility, power, cardiovascular fitness, etc.  From there, any deficiencies are identified and the staff lays out a plan for improvement. But obviously the athletes can be around the national team staff only a few days a year; it’s up to the players to go about the hard business of betterment.

Not everyone has gotten on board. Klinsmann gave hints that some players were clearly not making the strides he asked, so he laid it on the line for them. Those cannot be pleasant conversations, but even the affable, highly encouraging Klinsmann says he’s had them. It’s about accountability, he said.

“If we see there is no improvement at all. You know, ‘We told you, to improve your stamina or your endurance. But we see there is no improvement there. You come in, you have the same numbers!’ Then I have a talk. ‘You know, it doesn’t seem to me you want to get to the next level. You have settled for that level, you think you are good enough.”

Tomorrow, we can talk about how all that affected on player … Jozy Altidore.

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: explaining Jermaine Jones)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: Landon Donovan’s career crisis)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: the man is OK with being wrong)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: Jozy Altidore’s recent roster omission)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: tough friendlies ahead)

 

Latest Posts
  1. San Lorenzo to use Viagra to counter elevation in Bolivar match

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

    San Lorenzo

    The 3,600 meters of elevation will provide a stiff challenge, with many opposing clubs having fallen victim to the altitude.

  2. Premier League on tour, Tuesday roundup: United beat Inter in penalties

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:43 PM EDT

    louis_van_gaal Getty Images

    Manchester United continued their success in the US with a third consecutive victory.

  3. WATCH: Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Ibe sing Drake’s ‘Too Much’

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT

    England Press Conference Getty Images

    Sturridge and Ibe step to the mic and hold their own.

  4. Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Inter Milan (Lineups and Discuss)

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    International Champions Cup 2014 - AS Roma v Manchester United Getty Images

    In team news, van Gaal has decided to go with his fabled 3-5-2.

  5. Instagram Transfer Rumors: Radamel Falcao heading to Real Madrid

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    In a startling revelation, AS has revealed that Radamel Falcao has begun following three Real Madrid players on Instagram.

  6. Report: Southampton set to swap Dani Osvaldo for Inter Milan’s Saphir Taidar

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    Norwich City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Big day for headlines coming out of Southampton but this one looks to be quite promising for Saints fans.

  7. Luis Felipe Scolari hired by Gremio for third stint with Brazilian club

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Brazil - 2014 FIFA World Cup Training Camp - Day 1 Getty Images

    Twenty-seven years after his first stint with Gremio, Luis Felipe Scolari is returning to the Brazilian side as its new manager.

  8. WATCH: Bojan Krkic scores first goal for Stoke City in 2-1 defeat to Schalke

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Bojan Krkic AP

    Krkic, who made the $6.7 million move from Barcelona last week, scored a cracker of a first goal for Stoke City.

  9. Report: Carlos Tevez’ stepfather freed by Argentine kidnappers

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A Getty Images

    Tevez’s family was then phoned and told to deliver a ransom of $5,000 (40,000 pesos).

  10. Southampton chairman claims club will reinvest $165M in this transfer window

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Saints have a new Saints have a new

    “Every penny of that will be up for reinvestment as transfer fees and wages,” Krueger said.

  11. Ronaldinho leaves Atletico Mineiro, could be headed to MLS

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Brazil Atletico Mineiro Ronaldinho AP

    Where, exactly, Ronaldinho’s future ends up is anyone’s guess.

  12. WATCH: Five international, MLS games coming your way on NBC Sports this week

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    ICC and MLS action is in full swing in the USA this week. Watch it all online, here.

  13. New York City FC sign Jacobson from Dallas, linked with Alberto Aquilani

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT

    Montreal Impact v FC Dallas AP

    Jacobson arrives in the Big Apple from Dallas. Will Aquilani join him?

  14. Morgan Schneiderlin slams Southampton after Spurs move is blocked

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Southampton v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    Now Schneiderlin wants out as Saints’ incredible exodus continues to take a turn for the worst.

  15. Barcelona reveal record income levels of $711 million

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    Despite not winning any silverware last season, Barcelona were big winners off the pitch.

  16. Report: Carlos Tevez’s father kidnapped, held for ransom

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Tevez’s father, Juan Carlos Cabral, is said to have been kidnapped in Buenos Aires and held for ransom.

  17. Southampton insist Rodriguez, Schneiderlin are not for sale

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    350x AP

    Southampton duo are going nowhere, despite being linked with Tottenham switch.

  18. Liverpool complete $17 million signing of Belgian striker Divock Origi

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    Source: Liverpool FC Source: Liverpool FC

    Liverpool sign talented Belgian teenager, will loan him back to Lille this season.

  19. Despite calling African players “banana eaters”, Tavecchio still set to lead Italian FA

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT

    Italy Federation Racism AP

    Even after calling African players “banana eaters” this man is set lead the Italian FA.