Special Focus – Futsal Primer: What to Learn and Why
Futsal is a fun, fast-paced and exciting small-sided soccer game that came from South America. Futsal is played all around the globe and is the only indoor soccer game officially recognized by both UEFA and FIFA. In fact, 100 countries entered the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Fabulous for youth soccer players, the game of Futsal develops technical skill and ability. In the tight spaces of the five-a-side game (5 players against 5 players) technique matters. Unlike soccer, players enjoy hundreds of touches on the ball as the sphere speeds across the smooth, glossy floor of the court. In Futsal, players often find themselves one-on-one against an opponent and quick decision making is important. With the opposition constantly attacking, maintaining possession of the ball is critical and this helps develop great passing skills. World famous soccer professionals Pele, Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas all attribute Futsal to helping their performance on the soccer field.
According to the English FA, research indicates that individual’s playing Futsal receive the ball six times more often than they would do when they are playing 11-a-side football, allowing players to perform more individual skills. In America, soccer coaches always talk about developing decision-making skills in 1v1 situations. Futsal provides youth soccer players with the perfect environment to improve these skills.
Futsal is the hot topic of the soccer world right now and many parents want to know how can their child take advantage of this fun, fast paced indoor game? We asked Futsal coach Mike Gentry for his insights on playing Futsal and its many benefits for youth soccer players.
Mike Gentry first started playing soccer when he was 9 years old at AYSO in 1973. A love of the game has kept Gentry involved ever since. Now, the goalkeeper coach for Arsenal FC South and AYSO Matrix Regional, Gentry is also Assistant Coach at Miramar College and USYF Southwestern Regional Staff Coach. In addition, Gentry has worked with Sean Bowers since the beginning of 619 Futsal in 2010 and is the Director of Player Development. Here are Gentry’s insights into the power of Futsal.
“There are a number of ways for players to use futsal to become a better youth soccer player,” said Gentry. “One way is to train with an experienced coach who has either played Futsal or has taken a Futsal coaching classes. The reason? There are differences on how one uses skills on a court compared to a soccer field.”
Many parents want to understand what skills are most important in the futsal game and how the game is different from soccer – so we asked. “The basic form of trapping is a big difference,” said Gentry. “Futsal is all about using the sole of the foot, so the wedge trap is the best for control and change of direction. The player accomplishes the trap and redirects the ball, all without taking the foot off the ball.”
“Shooting is another difference,” said Gentry. “In futsal, the toe poke is a very dangerous weapon because of the speed at which you can strike.”
While more youth soccer players are enjoying the game of Futsal than ever before – in fact, more than 2,000 youth soccer players played Futsal at 619Futsal in the recent Fall and Spring seasons — few realize the benefits advanced Futsal training. “The playing level is higher in advanced training, so the time spent on the basics will be less –therefore more advanced skills can be taught,” explained Gentry.
“The passing game in Futsal is usually missed at a basic camp and that portion of the game takes quit awhile to learn and then master,” said Gentry.
Unlike outdoor soccer, passing a Futsal ball requires greater skill and accuracy. The ball is heavier than a traditional soccer ball and smaller in size. A Futsal ball is designed to keep play on the ground and reduce bounce. In the fast, 20 minute per half game of Futsal with the clock ticking the seconds away, the importance of keeping the ball helps develop fundamental skills that translate easily to soccer.
“Parents might be thinking that passing the Futsal ball is the same as outdoor soccer, but it’s more like basketball with patterns being run on the court,” said Gentry. “One of the best results of playing futsal is the player gains confidence with the ball in pressure situations. Players, after playing futsal, have expressed that they feel like they have so much time after receiving the ball in the outdoor game.”
How do players compete in youth Futsal? U.S. Youth Futsal — a U.S. Soccer affiliated futsal organization which oversees more than 75 local leagues across the USA – including 619Futsal — has a Futsal I.D. program in which players from across the country convene for Regional ID camps, with the most talented youth players advancing to the National Camps held in Kansas City – where the very best youth players are selected to represent the USA and travel to compete internationally.
Last year, USYF national teams traveled to Costa Rica to compete against National, Regional and League championship teams. This year, players selected for the USYF National teams will compete in Colombia in July, 2016.
What does it take to make a USYF Regional team or the USYF National team?
“A big part of what I look for as a Regional and National Staff Coach is the effort that each player gives,” said Gentry. “When they lose the ball are they hustling back to help defend? When the ball is at the far end of the court, are they putting themselves in a position to help? What movement are you doing to get the ball?”
While representing your country is always a great honor for any youth player, Futsal is often viewed as more than just a competitive game – players often think of Futsal and love the freedom the game offers them to be creative, to try new skills and to simply have fun.
Parents whose player are starting out in the world of Futsal or are looking to advance their skills often wonder … what makes Futsal so special? Ball retention, quick and skillful play, and tactical awareness are a few of the benefits, but the real value for many youth soccer players is the exuberance and fun of the game.
“Futsal is intense and fun,” said Gentry. “There are opportunities for your player to be a kid and just play. Those ‘fun’ times are just as important as the training sessions. To be able to do the things you’ve learned without anyone critiquing your skills is critical to a player’s success.”