To be doubted is perhaps one of the biggest motivators for any athlete. But, for Meghan Klingenberg, it’s been her fuel since day one.
“A lot of fans, commentators and people when I was growing up always said that I wasn’t going to be able to do what I wanted to do,” Klingenberg said. “I never believed that. I always thought I can do it. For me it was about belief and being able to follow my dreams to the best of my abilities, without being impeded by what everyone said.”
While Klingenberg may have been the shortest out on the pitch, it was her relentless heart that made her bigger than any opposing player. Inches may determine the difference between a win or a loss, but inches would not determine the height of the success that she would see.
Kling was an NSCAA All-American at Pine-Richland High School in her hometown of Gibsonia, PA, and led the team to a state championship in 2005.
She continued her career at the University of North Carolina, where she was an All-ACC and All-American player, en route to two National Championships in 2008 and 2009. In fact, Klingenberg is the only player from Western Pennsylvania to ever compete for the Tar Heels. It was in Carolina Blue, where she would make a statement as one of the most versatile players in the nation. Even though her role now is that of a defender, Kling played on all three lines at UNC, and ended with 18 career goals and 24 assists.
Not bad for the “short girl.”
After starring on both the U-20 and U-23 U.S. Youth National teams, including playing every minute on the U-23 squad that would go on to win the 2008 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Kling received her first Senior Team call-up in 2011. Rising through the ranks of the National team wasn’t easy as Kling was left as an alternate for the 2012 London Olympics.
But, remember that relentless heart? It was burning even brighter with determination to ensure that next time, her number would be called in that starting line-up.
Road to the 2015 World Cup
The pinnacle of women’s soccer is the World Cup. It’s every female soccer player’s dream to hoist the trophy donning her country’s colors. While Kling made four appearances with the National team in 2013, it wasn’t until 2014 when the spark plug became a regular presence on the back line.
She started in all five matches for the U.S. during their gold medal run at the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. Not only did Kling provide stellar lockdown defense, she also got in on the scoring action during a match on October 20 against Haiti.
The booming strike, which was her first international goal, left everyone’s jaw dropped in awe. The celebration that followed of a smiling Kling running around with her first in the air — like Judd Nelson in the final scene of the Breakfast Club — was symbolic.
It illustrated the passion that lies within Klingenberg and her flame that was never extinguished, despite being hosed with ambiguity and uncertainty. Most importantly it screamed that it truly is not about the size of a woman, but about the size of the heart that matters.
Meghan Klingenberg Foundation
While Kling’s heart propels her inbetween the lines, she uses it to touch the lives of others off the field. The Meghan Klingenberg Foundation was founded by Klingenberg with the goal of “developing human potential from young people.” Kling was inspired to start her foundation by a young cancer patient, who played soccer in the Pittsburgh area.
“She was this incredible girl who had this positive attitude on life,” Klingenberg said. “I’m not really a big fan of ‘let’s take a picture, here’s a shirt,’ and I’m out of their life. To me that’s a meaningless interaction that only brings them joy for a minute.”
“So, what I really wanted to do was be able to get in touch with these young kids that have so much potential and a lot of life to live. You know, really connect with them and stay in touch and be able to be a positive mentor in their life.”
In addition to her foundation, Klingenberg also holds a soccer camp each summer to help grow the game for young girls in every aspect possible. It’s a way for her to give back to the girls, whose shoes she was once in.
The connection makes it easy for Kling to relate.
“I’m their size, I have their maturity level,” Klingenberg said while laughing. “I was there when I was 14 or 15 years old and I have dreams just like them. Even if their dreams don’t match up with mine, I think that we can give them the tools to be successful in their lives.”
“For me, it’s important to be able to connect with them, so they’re able to have confidence, so they’re able to be leaders, and have successful futures, whether it’s in soccer and whatever else they want to do.”
While Kling doesn’t believe that she has one true purpose in life, there is no one better than her to relay the message of how important it is to have faith in yourself.
“I’ve always been a big believer in finding your passion and following that to the best of your ability, and making that a part of your life,” she said.
“I want other people to find their passion whether it’s soccer, politics, or being a doctor, and follow that passion because it only opens doors and other things.”
Small girl, big impact. That’s Meghan Klingenberg.