Brighton native Noah Kleedtke fell in love with soccer at a young age but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. In his words, he was never the strongest or tallest player growing up, he never make an academy team, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of playing collegiate soccer. Thus Kleedtke earned himself a spot with Case Western University in 2015, his freshmen year.
The time away at college made it clear that his heart was still at home. Home also just happened to be close enough for him to apply for one of the top nuclear engineering programs in the University of Michigan. Although rare for freshmen to be accepted to the College of Engineering, it didn’t stop Noah from taking that chance. That chance resulted in his acceptance.
“I actually remember getting a call from my mom right after one of our AFC Ann Arbor's practices to tell me that I got in and I was elated that all my hard work payed off,” said Kleedtke, now finishing up his second semester studying Engineering. Kleedtke’s summer of success didn’t stop there.
His journey back home proved to open many doors, all the result of hard work, determination and focus. He attributes a lot of his success to the summer of 2016 with AFC Ann Arbor.
In a quote from Noah, “I believe things happen for a reason. Coming home last summer and playing for AFC Ann Arbor definitely improved my soccer skills and prepared me for playing soccer at a fast-paced Division 1 level. Coach Rudland played a very important role in helping me earn a spot on the Michigan team.”
On top of his work ethic and attitude, Kleedtke had a major external factor that got him where he is today, his parents. An absolute staple at all AFC Ann Arbor matches (home and away) The Kleedtke’s are no stranger to supporting their son on and off the pitch.
“Ever since I was little, I can remember them sitting on the sidelines watching me play. They are always there rain or shine to offer support or congratulations after a match. I love sharing my soccer experiences with them and I know they are looking forward to coming to all the games this season,” said Kleedtke.
In a league that is the NPSL, the most successful clubs find a balance between national recruitment and regional talent. As the Midwest Region, particularly the state of Michigan, is among the most talent rich soccer areas, the benefits of snagging a local talent stem larger than on the field value. A player like Noah brings a family dynamic to a club as a local talent who always dreamed of an opportunity like he has now. Parents like the Kleedtkes, even at the semi-professional level, become parents of the entire team. These chemistry building aspects go a long way in the successful of a NPSL side.
Read our entire interview with Noah below:
AFC: Being a local guy, what does it mean to you to be able to play for your local club at such a high level? Your parents were always in the stands and at all of the community events always supporting you and AFC Ann Arbor. What does that support mean to you?
Noah: It is an amazing experience and a dream come true to go from playing club soccer in the Livonia area, to Division 1 soccer for the University of Michigan, and now semi-pro soccer for AFC Ann Arbor. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to train and play with some of the most highly-skilled and competitive soccer players from around the world. My parents love the sport and would never miss a chance to see a live game. They traveled to all of AFC’s home and away games last season and really enjoyed cheering on the team. Ever since I was little, I can remember them sitting on the sidelines watching me play. They are always there rain or shine to offer support or congratulations after a match. I love sharing my soccer experiences with them and I know they are looking forward to coming to all the games this season.
AFC: After completing your freshman year at Case Western, you came home last summer and played with The Mighty Oak. Did you come home with the goal to transfer to another school? Was it Michigan or nothing? What role did AFC Ann Arbor and Coach Rudland play for you in helping you earn a roster spot at Michigan?
Noah: I started my freshman year at Case Western Reserve University studying engineering and playing soccer for Head Coach Brandon Bianco. After being away at school for a year, I got homesick and started to miss my friends and family a lot. I really wanted to live closer to home and experience the environment of a D1 school, so I decided to apply to the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. I didn't apply anywhere else. Wherever I ended up after the summer I knew I'd be in a very good engineering program. Normally, first year undergraduates have a difficult time transferring into the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan because it is one of the top programs in the country and because of the course requirements. I took two classes last summer to bridge the course requirements gap, while training with AFC Ann Arbor. I actually remember getting a call from my mom right after one of our AFC Ann Arbor's practices to tell me that I got in and I was elated that all my hard work payed off. I am now in my second semester studying Nuclear Engineering and couldn’t be happier.
I believe things happen for a reason. Coming home last summer and playing for AFC Ann Arbor definitely improved my soccer skills and prepared me for playing soccer at a fast-paced Division 1 level. Coach Rudland played a very important role in helping me earn a spot on the Michigan team. If it wasn’t for the support of Coach Rudland and my teammates, I would not have had the opportunity to try out for the team.
AFC: With both AFC and University of Michigan, you didn't get to break into the lineup as much as you've wanted in 2016 but 2017 looks promising for more minutes. What is your approach to continue to fight for a top spot and how do you stay sharp? What are you hoping to accomplish with AFC this summer?
Noah: I worked hard last year to prove myself not only to Coach Rudland but to Coach Daley as well. I've been training really hard with the team this off season and have also been training on my own as well. I know that I have to go above and beyond to fight for a starting spot in the roster. I stay sharp by writing down my goals. If I can visualize what I'm working towards every day, I have a much better chance of getting better every day. I hope I can get into the starting lineup this summer with AFC and make a difference on the pitch. I'm blessed to play for such a great team for the second year in a row now and am ready to help AFC Ann Arbor have another successful season.
AFC: You've got an amazing attitude and approach. You always train at 100%, are dedicated to the cause of the team and always have a positive outlook. Where did you pick up this mentality and is it as deliberate as it seems?
Noah: I've always had a positive outlook, but I think it grew to fruition in college. I realized that everything I do now has a key role in shaping my future. I've worked very hard my whole life to get to where I am today, so why stop now. I try to push myself as hard as possible to accomplish as much as possible and to make my parents proud. I was always taught that if you really wanted something, you'd have to work for it. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but if you put in the time and effort, some things may just fall into place.
AFC: What advice would you give to younger players who dream of playing at a higher level?
Noah: My advice would be to never get discouraged. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. I was never the strongest or tallest player growing up. In fact, I didn't even make an Academy team. That didn't discourage me nor make me give up on my dreams. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. One last piece of advice: take advantage of every training opportunity no matter how big or small and use it to improve your game.
AFC: Tell us a little bit about when you started playing the game and why you fell in love with it.
Noah: I started playing soccer at the age of seven or eight years old. My mom played soccer and was my first coach. Growing up I remember always kicking a ball around, juggling in my free time, and watching many games on TV with my family. I watched literally millions of youtube videos trying to learn new tricks. My love for the sport has truly grown these past twelve or so years. Soccer has always been an outlet for me. The pitch is a place where nothing else matters except for the ball at my feet and I am truly grateful.
AFC: Who has been the most influential coach during your journey?
Noah: I have had many different soccer coaches during my career but I believe Head Coach Brandon Bianco at Case Western Reserve University was my biggest influence during my journey. He believed in me and was there for me throughout my freshmen year in college. It was a very tough time adjusting to college life and he was there for me every step of the way. He taught me many important lessons, not only on the pitch, but off it as well, including how to be a family man and how to be the best version of yourself. He truly cares about his players and wants them to be the best they can be. He has made a tremendous impact on my soccer career and I cannot thank him enough for that.
AFC: What has been the most memorable moment for you since you started playing?
Noah: I have a lot of great memories from playing soccer these past twelve years but my most memorable was scoring the golden goal in overtime for the biggest win of my career at Case Western Reserve University against Carnegie Mellon on November 7, 2016. I’ll never forget that game because we were scoreless at the end of regulation and had to go into overtime. It was the second overtime period when I struck a ball sideways on the edge of the box that tipped off one of my teammates heads to win the game 1-0. All of my teammates were going crazy and ran from the bench. It was pandemonium on the field. I also got to enjoy the victory afterwards with my parents, sister and grandparents who all drove down to Cleveland to watch the game. This is one memory I will cherish forever.
About AFC Ann Arbor
AFC Ann Arbor completed a very successful inaugural campaign in the Midwest Region of the National Premier Soccer League finishing 2nd in the conference while earning the club’s first playoff berth. The club’s third season kicks off in May as The Mighty Oak look to continue their winning ways under Head Coach Eric Rudland. Youth, General and Premium Memberships for Season Tree can be purchased here.